Tillerson Resumes Normal Schedule in Kenya

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has resumed his normal schedule in Kenya Sunday after canceling events the day before because he was “not feeling well.”

Tillerson laid a wreath at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi Sunday at a ceremony to honor those killed and injured in a bombing there 20 years ago.

“As all of you well know, in 1998, terrorists thought they could demoralize and destroy the Kenyan and American people by attacking the U.S. embassy here in Nairobi. Of course they were wrong. Nearly 20 years later, we meet here to honor those who we lost and those who were injured,” Tillerson told an audience including survivors of the attack.

Among the survivors present was Joash Okindo, who continues to work at the U.S. Embassy after having both of his legs broken in the blast. Okindo, who wore a medal of bravery to the ceremony, was a guard at the embassy the day of the attack.

“When it’s cold, that’s when I feel pain,” he said.

Tillerson had cancelled events to seek respite from what has been an extraordinarily busy schedule, according to the State Department.

“The secretary is not feeling well after a long couple days working on major issues back home such as North Korea and has cancelled his events for the day,” said Under Secretary of State Steve Goldstein.

Tillerson added a meeting Sunday with Kenyan Foreign Minister Monica Juma, as he was only able to speak with her during a brief pull-aside on Friday.

After meeting Friday in Nairobi with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Tillerson hailed the political reconciliation between Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga as “a positive step toward healing Kenya’s ethnic and political divisions,” the State Department said in a statement.

Kenyatta and Odinga met for the first time since last summer’s contentious presidential elections to start what they called a joint push for national unity.

Tillerson underscored at the meeting with Kenyatta “strong U.S. support for democratic institutions” � including the media � and voiced concern over “restrictions to political space.”

The Kenyan government shut down three television channels in January on the day that Odinga took a symbolic presidential oath in a mock inauguration. The government defied a court order to allow the stations, which had planned to live-stream the oath, to resume broadcasts.

U.S. Institute of Peace senior adviser Johnnie Carson said in an interview with VOA a free and independent media instills public confidence.

“It is time for the parties to move forward, but it is the government’s responsibility to act responsibly in defense of the rule of law, in defense of the judiciary, in the defense of free speech and defense of protection of the media,” Carson said.

Other topics of discussion during Tillerson’s meeting with Kenyatta were defeating terrorism in neighboring Somalia, political unrest in South Sudan and strengthening U.S.-Kenyan business relations.

Tillerson said the U.S. will seek to work with African nations, providing them with incentives to improve governance and meet their long-term security and development goals. He is on a five-nation trip to Africa that began earlier this week.

He arrived in Nairobi Friday from Djibouti. Tillerson kicked off his trip with a visit to Ethiopia on Wednesday, where he met with the country’s prime minister and the African Union Commission chief.

Source: Voice of America

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