Source: US State Department Briefing
Digital Press Briefing with Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations, Tuesday 18 May 2021
Introduction by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
[Note: below is an extract of what she had to say]
Before I served in my current role as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, I spent most of my career working on the African continent, and I first visited Africa, I’m almost embarrassed to say, over 43 years ago. I fell in love with the continent, with the people, as you know, with the food and with the culture. And Africa is very much in my heart. It was an emotional experience for me 43 years ago, and it continues to be emotional for me today. I knew my ancestors came from this large and beautiful and diverse continent, and so I felt very, very proud at that moment to be on the continent. And I feel very proud to be working on issues related to the continent now.
Since then, my experiences working in Liberia and Kenya and Rwanda and Nigeria and the Gambia, and virtually every other corner of the continent, have deeply shaped who I am. So if there’s one message I’d love for you to deliver back home today, it’s that I miss you.
Moderator: Thank you. The next question, we will go to Ethiopia, a question from Tsedale Lemma of the Addis Standard out of Ethiopia. She writes, “Ethiopia is undergoing a tragic episode of manmade political violence, including a devastating civil war in Tigray that has now left more than 5 million people facing a potential famine in the coming months. As actively engages as the Biden administration seems to have been initially, its first five months in office did not bring anything concrete by way of leveraging its diplomacy to stop Ethiopia’s descent into complete chaos. Is it time for Ethiopians to give up expecting anything from the Biden administration?”
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: Thank you. And that is an extraordinarily important question and I hope that that is not where Ethiopians are going. The Biden administration has been engaged with Ethiopia from day one. You can go back and look at the kinds of statements that were even made prior to the administration taking over on January 20th. President Biden sent his own emissary to Ethiopia; Senator Coons went out to meet with and try to engage with the government on this situation. Jeff Feltman has just completed a visit to Ethiopia, and I have been actively engaged on this issue here in New York, insisting that it be put on the agenda of the Security Council and successfully getting a statement out of the Security Council. I will continue to engage on those issues here in New York, but our administration has also made clear its engagement on this.
We have raised our grave concerns over the reports of human rights violations, the abuses, the atrocities that have taken place in Tigray, and we condemn them in the strongest terms, and you have seen all of those messages come out. And we will continue to address this. We’ve called on the Eritrean Government to remove its forces from Tigray. Jeff Feltman went to Eritrea as well and engaged with the president there. And we, again, have repeatedly engaged the Ethiopian Government at the highest levels.
So in the past five months, we have been proactively engaged on this issue and I would hope that the Ethiopian Government and the Ethiopian people are conscious of what we are doing, and continue to work with us to try to find a solution to this situation.
Moderator: Staying along those same lines of Ethiopia, Brook Abdu from The Reporter newspaper writes in our Q&A, “Is the Tigray crisis on the agenda for tomorrow’s [Wednesday 19 May] UN Security Council meeting? What do you think of the Horn of Africa security dynamics as a whole?”
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: It’s not on the agenda for the Security Council meeting tomorrow, but at any point we can have this issue on the agenda, either having it come to us through the UN or having it added to the agenda by one of the members, but we are engaged and continue to engage with member states, with the African – the A3+1 members of the Security Council, with the P5, as well as with other member states of the UN on this issue.