Trump administration's words, deeds on Africa are colliding

2018-03-12 17:06
Donald Trump (File: AP)

Donald Trump (File: AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Nairobi - On the outskirts of a sprawling reserve of Kenyan grasslands where endangered animals roam wild, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson lavished praise on an American-funded forensics lab that tracks down elephant-poachers for prosecution, and urged aggressive action in Africa on conservation.

Yet earlier this month, the Trump administration quietly lifted the US ban on importing African elephant trophies, to the dismay of environmental groups who said it sends precisely the wrong message.

US words and deeds are colliding as Tillerson travels across Africa. On trade policy, HIV/Aids and humanitarian aid, the United States at times seems at odds with itself, muddying efforts to show it wants the continent to flourish and is here to help.

In the case of the elephants, conservationists appeared to have a powerful ally in President Donald Trump, who intervened personally last year to stop the US. Fish and Wildlife Service from lifting the Obama-era ban on tusks imported from Zambia and Zimbabwe. Trump took to Twitter to call the practice a "horror show".

At the forensics lab at Nairobi National Park, the only such lab in east and central Africa, Tillerson agreed Sunday when famed conservationist Richard Leakey warned that the "huge interest" in wildlife products such as elephant and rhinoceros parts was fueling the international trafficking trade.

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news from around the continent by subscribing to our FREE newsletter, Hello Africa.

FOLLOW News24 Africa on Twitter and Facebook. 

"That's really the key, is to shut it all down," Tillerson said.

But three months after Trump's move to keep the ban in place, his administration reversed course again, saying elephant trophies could be imported on a "case-by-case basis." The US agency said it chose that course of action to comply with a court ruling that said the Obama administration failed to follow proper procedure in enacting the original ban.

In Kenya, where the elephant population has plummeted to roughly one-fifth of what it was in the 1970s, the new Trump policy fell flat.

"The whole world is against it," said Paula Kahumbu, an elephant expert and CEO of Wildlife Direct, a leading Kenyan environmental group. She said past US support for banning the ivory trade has pushed China and other nations to act as well. "To then say, 'Oh, but we have a special case for some of our people, they should be allowed to have ivory,' it totally undermines the US leadership role."

American leadership has been repeatedly questioned since Trump took office in January 2017 as Washington pulls back from past commitments to Nato, to the United Nations and to aid programs that form the core of US "soft power" diplomacy.

Tillerson's trip to Kenya was designed in part to highlight the success of PEPFAR, the 15-year-old HIV/Aids programme that has saved millions of lives and helped see the continent through an epidemic that once threatened to wipe out a whole generation. More than 13 million people with HIV in Africa are on lifesaving antiretroviral drugs thanks to PEPFAR, the US has said.

Future 

"It's a very proud moment for us and a very proud moment for the American people," Ambassador Deborah Birx, the US global Aids co-ordinator, said this past week.

So HIV/Aids advocates are scratching their heads at why Trump has repeatedly proposed cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from PEPFAR. The nonprofit ONE Campaign warned that the cut would lead to hundreds of thousands more people dying of Aids each year.

The Trump administration has said despite those reductions, it believes there's enough money left "to maintain all current patient levels" — meaning to not cut off anyone's lifesaving medications. But public health groups say they can't understand why US would pull back from the President George W. Bush-era programme at the very moment when Tillerson says the world "can actually now see a future free of HIV/Aids".

Visiting the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia earlier in his trip, Tillerson urged officials not to go ahead with a plan to impose a 0.2% tariff on imports. The goal is to help the AU become financially self-sufficient, but the US is concerned the plan runs afoul of the World Trade Organization, thus keeping US companies out of the African market.

The timing for Tillerson's push was inauspicious: Trump is in the midst of going ahead with steep trade penalties on aluminum and steel imported to the US.


Read more on:    donald trump  |  us  |  africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.