Kamala Harris talks business, Ethiopia’s Tigray crisis, Ebola, COVID-19 with African Union Chair and DRC President Felix Tshisekedi

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday spoke with the chairperson of the African Union and President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Felix Tshisekedi.

They discussed several issues, including business opportunities, the Ebola outbreak in the country, COVID-19, and the ravaging humanitarian crisis in Tigray region in northern Ethiopia.

“The Vice President emphasized the serious concern of the United States about reports of significant human rights violations and a deteriorating humanitarian crisis in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. They agreed to collaborate to reduce conflict, support dialogue, and secure peace in eastern DRC and the region,” the White House said.

The President of Democratic Republic of the Congo Mr. Felix Antoine TSHISEKEDI TSHILOMBO arrives in Sochi. Felix Antoine TSHISEKEDI TSHILOMBO will take part in the Russia–Africa Summit on 23–24 October. Dmitry Feoktistov/TASS

Harris also congratulated President Tshisekedi on assuming the African Union Chairmanship, the White House said, adding that the two leaders committed to work together to strengthen health security, increase regional trade and investment, promote human rights and good governance, and to address the challenges of climate change. 

“The Vice President committed to working with the DRC government to advance girls’ education and to bolster economic opportunities for all Congolese,” added the White House.

On Thursday, U.S. President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. spoke with President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, the first African leader since his inauguration on January 20.

Biden and Kenyatta discussed many issues, including the “humanitarian and human rights crises in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and the need to prevent further loss of life and ensure humanitarian access,” the White House said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta at a past interview event. [Source:Uhuru Kenyatta:Facebook] 
President Uhuru Kenyatta

“President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. spoke today with President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya. The President affirmed the importance of the strong U.S.- Kenya bilateral relationship,” the White House said of their conversation.

President Biden also emphasized the United States’ continued commitment to working closely with Kenya to support regional peace and security, including at the United Nations Security Council. 

The Prime Minister of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia H.E. Mr. Abiy Ahmed arrives in Sochi to take part in the Russia–Africa Summit in October 2019 Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS

“The President applauded Kenya’s leadership in the Horn of Africa and commitment to counterterrorism, economic growth, addressing climate change, and sustainable development. 

“Presidents Biden and Kenyatta discussed the deteriorating humanitarian and human rights crises in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and the need to prevent further loss of life and ensure humanitarian access. The leaders also discussed the need for cooperation on other matters of regional stability,” the White House added.

President Biden has vowed to defend democracy and human rights around the world, and Ethiopia may become a good place to start.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris meet with Secretary of the Treasury Dr. Janet Yellen and business leaders Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz) 
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris meet with Secretary of the Treasury Dr. Janet Yellen and business leaders Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

On February 10, Human Rights Watch concluded that Ethiopian federal forces carried out apparently indiscriminate shelling of urban areas in the Tigray region in November 2020 in violation of the laws of war. Artillery attacks at the start of the armed conflict struck homes, hospitals, schools, and markets in the city of Mekelle, and the towns of Humera and Shire, killing at least 83 civilians, including children, and wounding over 300.

“At the war’s start, Ethiopian federal forces fired artillery into Tigray’s urban areas in an apparently indiscriminate manner that was bound to cause civilian casualties and property damage,” said Laetitia Bader, Horn of Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “These attacks have shattered civilian lives in Tigray and displaced thousands of people, underscoring the urgency for ending unlawful attacks and holding those responsible to account.”

On November 4, the Ethiopian military began operations in Tigray in response to what Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed described as attacks on federal forces and bases by forces affiliated with the region’s ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). As of February 2021, many Tigray residents lack adequate access to food, fuel, water, and medicines. More than 200,000 people are internally displaced, while tens of thousands have also fled to neighboring Sudan.

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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