David Hale, the United States Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs has cancelled his online video press briefing with African reporters.
The briefing had been scheduled for Thursday. Hale was expected to discuss with African reporters around the world his recent travel to Africa and the new U.S. Africa policy unveiled in December.
But the briefing was cancelled at the last minute on Wednesday morning.
Officials said it had been postponed but gave no new date.
“Unfortunately, this Online Video Press Briefing with Under Secretary Hale has been cancelled. We will reschedule the briefing for next week and will update all attendees on the new logistics of the briefing,” a statement from the African media hub said.
It did not provide any explanation for the cancellation.
But a statement from the U.S. Mission in Nigeria said the Under Secretary’s press briefing was postponed “due to the high likelihood of a snowstorm in Washington, DC that could cause the closure of government offices”.
Secretary Hale from New Jersey, who took the oath of office as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs on August 30, 2018, would have been President Donald Trump’s highest ranking official to discuss the new U.S. Africa policy since it was unveiled by National Security Adviser John Bolton last December.
But even before the cancellation or postponement, several African leaders who spoke privately with TODAY NEWS AFRICA from Washington D.C. concluded that there was very little to expect.
According to them, in more than two years in power, President Trump has continually denigrated Africa, calling its nations shit-hole and its people as villagers who live in huts, and who will never return to those huts once they see or taste the good life in America.
He has also continued to dismantle virtually everything built by American Presidents before him, especially President Barack Obama, the first African American President.
For instance, they said, President Trump has been campaigning to end the American visa lottery that has helped bring many Africans to the United States, and has vowed to cancel the Mandela Washington fellowship started by President Obama.
In addition, they said, the new U.S. policy would also reduce or stop funding for the United Nations missions in Africa, at the very time the continent is still facing severe and widespread instability.
The reduction of the State Department budget by the Trump administration has also crumbled many assistance programs in Africa. The programs affected ranged from the protection of gays and lesbians, to abortions and human rights and dignity to other areas.
Mr Trump’s new Africa policy would also seek bilateral trade deals with individual African countries that would take many years to craft and eventually lead to many promises but no results, they said, virtually agreeing with an opinion article by TODAY NEWS AFRICA’s Simon Ateba on Monday.
This would happen, they argued, even as China and Russia and the rest continue to connive with corrupt African leaders to plunder African resources and sign nebulous contracts that lead to poorly executed projects.
“It will be just words, nothing concrete. Mr Trump does not have Africa at heart,” an offocial from an Eastern African country told TODAY NEWS AFRICA.
In an opinion Mr Ateba, the publisher of TODAY NEWS AFRICA also argued that by labeling the American media fake news, Mr Trump has given dictators in Africa a precious gift and tool to continue to oppress their own people.
Besides, Ateba argued, with the belief that Mr Trump is siding with white nationalists, he has endangered the lives of all black people around the world.
Secretary Hale is career diplomat who joined the Foreign Service in 1984 and holds the rank of Career Ambassador.
But he has very little, like President Trump himself, Sub-Saharan African experience.
Before his appointment last year, he was the Ambassador to Pakistan (2015-18), Ambassador to Lebanon (2013-15), Special Envoy for Middle East Peace (2011-2013), Deputy Special Envoy (2009-11), and Ambassador to Jordan (2005-8).
Earlier, he had multiple tours in Jordan and Lebanon and served in Tunisia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and at the U.S. Mission to the UN.
In Washington, Hale was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israel, Egypt and the Levant (2008-9) and Director for Israel-Palestinian Affairs (2001-3). He held several staff posts, including Executive Assistant to Secretary of State Albright.
He speaks Arabic, is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and a native of New Jersey.