Jackson Cuts Short Africa Trip Amid Bad Publicity
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ Pop superstar Michael Jackson left Africa today, cutting short a four- nation private tour that became bogged down in misunderstandings and bad publicity.
It was unclear what caused Jackson to leave Tanzania without going on a planned safari and skipping a scheduled trip to Kenya altogether.
Local reports said urgent business forced him to fly directly to London. Publicists for Jackson in New York and Los Angeles said they were unaware of the change in plans and could provide no details.
Whatever the reasons, the 33-year-old singer-songwriter cut short a trip that threatened to become a public relations nightmare due apparently to misinterpreted gestures and erroneous reports.
In Ivory Coast, irate newspaper editorials accused the star of insulting the West African nation by frequently touching his nose, suggesting he did not like the country’s smell.
One of two aides traveling with Jackson rejected the suggestion, describing Jackson’s nose-touching as the nervous twitch of a shy person.
″Under no circumstances would we be here if we thought your country smelled. You are our roots,″ Bob Jones told reporters in the Ivory Coast’s capital, Abidjan.
Jackson was crowned honorary ″King of the Sanwis″ on a golden throne Saturday in an Ivory Coast village.
But unrest also marred his visit when police attacked a crowd outside his hotel on Thursday. Authorities said anti-government protesters had infiltrated the crowd.
Paramilitary troops in riot gear accompanied Jackson during his outings.
From Ivory Coast, Jackson and his entourage of nearly 40 flew to the East African nation of Tanzania aboard a private plane Monday.
Upon arrival, he was greeted by Foreign Minister Ahmed Hassan Diria and received flowers from Diria’s granddaughters before climbing into a waiting car for the trip to the hotel, according to the U.S. Embassy, which had a representative at the airport to greet Jackson.
However, a news report that was widely used in the region said witnesses described Jackson as running from the plane clutching his nose and jumping into a waiting car while hiding his face behind a small handbag.
The report described Diria as having to run after Jackson to introduce himself.
Kenneth Scott, the U.S. Embassy’s deputy chief of mission, called the report false.
″It’s absolutely incorrect,″ Scott said in a telephone interview. ″People have been having a field day with Jackson.′
Edward Ngewe, the manager of the state-owned Kilimanjaro Hotel where Jackson and his group stayed, said he was told the music star decided not to fly to the nation’s north because it meant travelling in a small plane.
″He doesn’t like to board small planes,″ said Ngewe.
Ngewe said Jackson was a pleasant guest who did not complain about anything and brought his own chef.
Jackson began his tour Feb. 11 in Gabon.