The United States Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield asserted on Thursday that instability in Ethiopia is threatening peace and security in the entire Horn of Africa, noting that there is no military solution to the conflict.
“I can say categorically that the United States is putting every effort into seeking a negotiated resolution to the conflict in Ethiopia,” Thomas-Greenfield told reporters at a New York Foreign Press Center Briefing on the 2021 Seoul UN Peacekeeping Ministerial. “We do see this conflict as threatening peace and security in the entire Horn of Africa, and we do not believe that there is a military solution to the conflict there. Our goal is to support diplomacy as the first, the last, and the only option that will encourage all sides to cease the hostilities.”
The seasoned American diplomat who returned to public service last February after retiring from a 35-year career with the U.S. Foreign Service in 2017, said the United States supports the unity and the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ethiopia.
She said the United States is partnering with regional actors to see the killings stop and engage with Ethiopians for peace to return.
She said, “The United States and Ethiopia have had a very long and strong partnership between our governments and our people, and we support the unity and the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ethiopia. We want to see the killings stop. That is the reason we’re working closely with regional partners.
“We’re working with former President Obasanjo and the AU. We’re working with other partners in the region who are engaging with the Ethiopian authorities to get them to agree to a ceasefire and a way forward that will provide safety and security for all Ethiopians.
“And we will not cease in our diplomatic efforts both bilaterally, as well as here in New York multilaterally, to push for a ceasefire and to push for peace in the entire country of Ethiopia.”
Linda Thomas-Greenfield is not new to Africa or to conflict resolution in the continent. From 2013 to 2017, she served as the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, where she led the bureau focused on the development and management of U.S. policy toward sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to that appointment, she served as Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources (2012-2013), leading a team in charge of the State Department’s 70,000-strong workforce.
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield’s distinguished Foreign Service career includes an ambassadorship to Liberia (2008-2012), and postings in Switzerland (at the United States Mission to the United Nations, Geneva), Pakistan, Kenya, The Gambia, Nigeria, and Jamaica. In Washington, she served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of African Affairs (2006-2008), and as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (2004-2006).
During those decades, she has seen instability in Liberia, Sudan, South-Sudan, northern Nigeria, Algeria and everywhere across Africa. More importantly, she seems to have learned that dialogue, not war, is always the best option.
Among the regional partners the United States is working with to bring about peace and stability in Ethiopia is Kenya, and Thomas-Greenfield acknowledged their role during Thursday’s briefing.
“We’re delighted to have Kenya on the Security Council with us. They are an extraordinary partner, and they are focusing on these issues. They’re focusing on women, peace, and security. They’re focusing on peacekeeping. And they have – unfortunately have had to take the lead on bringing the Security Council together on the situation in Ethiopia, because Ethiopia is Kenya’s neighbor and any insecurity in Ethiopia impacts Kenya. But they have been an extraordinary partner on all of these issues in the Security Council, and they’ve been a leader among the A3 – the A3+1 on the Security Council, addressing African issues,” she said. “Kenya will remain on the Security Council for another year. The other African members of the Security Council are leaving, so Kenya will be the experienced African voice on the Security Council joined by Gabon and Ghana. And I know that those two countries will be looking to Kenya for support, as I do now, on African issues and broader issues as well.”
The Ethiopian conflict has been going for over a year. Thousands of people have been killed and tens of thousands have been displaced within Ethiopia and to neighboring Sudan. The United States, the United Nations and others have estimated that hundreds of thousands of people remain at an increased risk of famine.
In the past one year, atrocities have been committed by the Ethiopian government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), and others, including Eritrean forces.
For instance, on Thursday, Human Right Watch said that Tigrayan forces summarily executed dozens of civilians in two towns they controlled in Ethiopia’s northern Amhara region between August 31 and September 9, 2021.
The human rights organization noted that “these killings highlight the urgent need for the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish an international investigative mechanism into abuses by all warring parties in the expanded Tigray conflict.”
According to Human Rights Watch, on August 31, Tigrayan forces entered the village of Chenna and engaged in sporadic and at times heavy fighting with Ethiopian federal forces and allied Amhara militias. Chenna residents told Human Rights Watch that over the next five days Tigrayan forces summarily executed 26 civilians in 15 separate incidents, before withdrawing on September 4. In the town of Kobo on September 9, Tigrayan forces summarily executed a total of 23 people in four separate incidents, witnesses said. The killings were in apparent retaliation for attacks by farmers on advancing Tigrayan forces earlier that day.
“Tigrayan forces showed brutal disregard for human life and the laws of war by executing people in their custody,” said Lama Fakih, crisis and conflict director at Human Rights Watch. “These killings and other atrocities by all sides to the conflict underscore the need for an independent international inquiry into alleged war crimes in Ethiopia’s Tigray and Amhara regions.”
HRW, Amnesty International and other rights groups have also documented abuses committed by Ethiopian forces, including killings, rapes and tortures.
And as the conflict in Ethiopia continues to worsen, such abuses are likely to continue as well.