MODERATOR: I want to wish everyone good afternoon from the U.S. Department of State’s Africa Regional Media Hub. I would like to welcome our participants dialing in from across the continent, thank all of you for joining this discussion. Today, we are very pleased to be joined by the U.S. Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield will discuss her trip to Kenya, Ghana, and Mozambique on which she highlighted U.S. efforts to address food and regional security and strengthen partnerships with key current and former UN Security Council members.
So we will begin today’s call with opening remarks from Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, then we will turn to your questions. We will try to get to as many of them as we can during the briefing. However, the Ambassador’s time is limited today, as she is concluding a lengthy and complex trip to Africa.
As a reminder, today’s call is on the record, and with that, I would like to turn to Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield for her opening remarks.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, thank you very much, and thanks to all of you for joining us today. I’m just coming off of a very productive weeklong trip to Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya, and Somalia. I had four overarching goals for this trip: to strengthen our partnerships with current and former UN Security Council members; follow up on our priorities from the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, including combating climate change; shine a spotlight on humanitarian issues, particularly famine; and continue our consultations on UN reform to ensure the UN is fit for purpose.
In Ghana, I met with Foreign Minister Shirley Botchwey, thanked her for Ghana’s strong partnership on the Security Council, and discussed prospects for UN reform. We also discussed regional security issues and UN peacekeeping.
In Mozambique, I met with their minister of foreign affairs and cooperation to discuss Mozambique’s historic first term on the Security Council, as well as shared priorities like climate change, women, peace, and security issues, and regional security. I also met with UN officials working to build a safer, more peaceful region as well as members of civil society, entrepreneurs, students, activists, and members of my beloved YALI exchange program. I even had the opportunity to volunteer alongside local environmental activists at the last remaining coastal mangrove forest in urban Maputo, an important natural defense against the effects of climate change that we must protect.
In Kenya, I met with President Ruto. I expressed my deep appreciation for Kenya’s leadership on the Security Council during its two-year tenure and discussed ways we can partner on food security and counterterrorism in the Horn of Africa. I also visited the UN office in Nairobi and met with officials from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian assistance, the World Food Program, the Food and Agriculture Organization, UNHCR, and UNICEF, to discuss refugee assistance in Kenya. And I delivered remarks along with a representative from Church World Service about the value of the newly launched Welcome Corps, and how kind-hearted Americans can now welcome refugees to the United States. I also visited a state-of-the-art manufacturing and assembly hub for electronic vehicles in Kenya. I was impressed with Kenya’s efforts to accelerate a just energy transition and tackle the climate crisis.
Finally, in Somalia, I met with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to discuss the severe drought and potential for famine in Somalia, as well as a wide range of issues, including political reconciliation, how to sustain the offensive against al-Shabaab, and how to develop security forces who can assume responsibility for ATMIS. I also met with ATMIS as well as local UN humanitarian and NGO groups to discuss how we can improve their safety and security while they risk their lives to deliver therapeutic feeding to remote communities despite the terrorism threat.
At the end of my trip, I made a speech in Mogadishu on how the international community must come together to end famine forever. When I heard – what I heard and saw in Somalia is that because of the combination of COVID, conflict, and climate, the threat of famine is back. The word “famine” should be an anachronism. We have the tools to banish it to a bygone era. I announced $40 million in new, additional funding from the United States to Somalia to save lives, stave off famine, and meet humanitarian needs. But the truth is the United States can’t do this alone. My call is for the international community to step up and do more. Those countries with the means to give more must heed the call of humanity. There is no reason – none at all – that we cannot get resources to the people in acute need. So let’s be ambitious; let’s end famine forever, together.
Thank you, and with that, I’m looking forward to your questions.
MODERATOR: Okay, thank you very much, Ambassador. And we’ll go directly into the question-and-answer portion today. So the first question comes to us from Christine Holzbauer of Financial Afrik in Senegal. She asks: “A big international summit to improve food resilience just took place in Dakar. The African Bank for Development made announcements to this purpose. Therefore, your visit to the continent, as well as those of other American officials, seems redundant. Do you have any new, concrete items to announce to compensate for the shortages and suffering for their populations that many countries in Africa must endure because of the war between Russia and Ukraine?”
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you for that question. And I am honestly extraordinarily pleased with the conference that was held in Dakar, the leadership that African countries are taking to deal with this issue. But we’re also there as partners. As I just said, we just announced 40 million new dollars to this effort to fight the effects of food insecurity, to fight climate change. We have given close to if not more than $2.3 billion to these efforts across the Horn of Africa. I was in Ghana earlier last year and spoke about the issues of food insecurity. I met with farmers. I heard their concerns. And we are working with these countries as well as others to address those concerns. And we’re asking other donors to join those efforts.
So our work is not redundant; it’s complementary to what is taking place on the continent of Africa.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Ambassador. I’d like to go for the next question to Dylan Gamba of Agence France-Presse in Kenya, and he asks: “What is the current situation of the war against al-Shabaab in Somalia? Would you say the government is winning, as it appears the al-Shabaab have a strategy of tit for tat when a city is recaptured? What is the situation regarding the famine?”
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: On the fight against al-Shabaab, the fight continues. The government is making progress against al-Shabaab, and we’re working side by side with them to support their strategy. We’re working with ATMIS to also support their efforts to support the government. And those efforts will continue until they have been able to destroy al-Shabaab’s ability to terrorize the people of Somalia, to terrorize the region, and to terrorize the world.
The situation on the famine remains dire. We luckily averted the famine announcement the last time around, but still hundreds of people died from starvation, and the work needs to continue on that. We’re not out of the woods yet. What I heard when I was in the region is that they have had five failed rainfalls over the course of the past year. The sixth one is upcoming in the March-April timeframe, and if we don’t ramp up our efforts then we stand another chance of reaching famine-like conditions, if not an actual famine.
So we are working very, very closely with the humanitarian organizations, with other donors, with the countries involved, and with communities to do everything possible to ensure that we save lives and that we avert a famine a second time around.
MODERATOR: Okay, thank you, Ambassador. I know that your time is very limited. If we could squeeze in one more question we’d be very grateful, from Christopher Alvin of the Alvin Mokaya Media Center in Kenya, asks: “What is the role of the U.S. in ensuring a stable, secure, and peaceful nation in Kenya after the divisive 2022 election?”
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, let me just say we are a strong partner with the Government of Kenya. That partnership spans over six decades. It’s a deep and broad relationship of shared values: democracy and good governance and respect for human rights. And we’re committed to supporting Kenya’s vision for its development journey through locally led initiatives and strengthening institutions. We have worked very closely with the Kenyan Government to address food security issues, and we’re working very closely with them to address the issues of terrorism and insecurity in the region.
Kenya has been a strong partner for us in addressing some of those regional concerns. It was the efforts of Kenya that contributed significantly to the ceasefire that took place in Ethiopia, and they are continuing those efforts to address the situation in DRC.
So again, more work needs to be done, but Kenya is in a good place at the moment and we’re hoping to continue to strengthen the partnership that we have with them.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Ambassador. And I know that food insecurity was one of the major themes of your trip. There have been a few other questions about food insecurity. But knowing that that’s one of the major themes of your trip, I’d like to just sort of wrap it up now, knowing that you have very limited time, ask you if you have any final comments to make.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you very much, and let me thank all of you in the press who are on this line. It is important that you, too, focus on food insecurity to make sure that the messages are delivered to people that we have to tackle this issue, we have to tackle it today, and that every country has a role to play, and to encourage more donor support, as I did in my speech in Somalia and will be speaking to when I return to New York, encouraging others to contribute to this worthy effort. This is about humanity, and we all have to ramp up our efforts.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Ambassador, and thank you to all of our participants today. I regret we didn’t have more time to spend. However, the Ambassador’s trip to Africa and her other ongoing work is extremely important and extremely urgent, and we have to let her go and get on to her next responsibilities. So I really do appreciate your time, Ambassador, and all of our participants today.
Please be reminded that a transcript and recording of this briefing will be available to you. You can contact us at any time at the Africa Regional Media Hub, follow us on Twitter and other social media platforms, and stay in touch with us, and I hope that we’ll be seeing you all again. Thank you very much and have a good day.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you.