Ambassador Michael Hammer has been appointed as the new United States Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken announced Wednesday.
Ambassador Hammer will have a very busy agenda as the Horn of Africa faces many daunting challenges including severe human rights abuses, political instability, widespread hunger, and a devastating drought.
“[Hammer’s] appointment underscores our abiding commitment to diplomatic efforts in the region, most urgently in support of an inclusive political process towards peace, common security, and prosperity for all people in Ethiopia,” said Secretary Blinken.
In his new position, Ambassador Hammer will have to engage with multiple crises in the region including a bloody conflict in Ethiopia that has consisted of widespread human rights atrocities and a mounting humanitarian crisis.
Conflict involving Ethiopian federal forces,TPLF regional forces, and the Eritrean military has been ongoing since November 2020. The violence has continued to spread and has resulted in thousands of deaths, millions of displacements, and has put hundreds of thousands at risk of famine.
Human rights organizations have reported abuses including indiscrimante attacks on civilians, sexual violence as a weapon of war, arbitrary arrests and detentions, recruitment of child soldiers, and ethnic-based killings.
According to USAID, over 5.2 million people in the Tigray region are in need of humanitarian aid. However, recent reports allege that Oromo and Amhara forces are clashing in western Ethiopia as violence continues to spread throughout the nation.
“This Administration remains firmly focused on a cessation of hostilities, unhindered humanitarian access, transparent investigations into violations and human rights abuses by all actors, and a negotiated resolution to the conflict,” said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday.
As U.S. Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa, Ambassador Hammer will be entrusted to work with regional leadership to bring about a peaceful end to the conflict and open up the region to humanitarian aid. Despite claims made by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the region is still incredibly difficult to reach with humanitarian assistance as conflict persists.
In addition to the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia, the Horn of Africa faces additional challenges including political instability in Sudan, border disputes, and conflict surrounding the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile River.
Hammer is an experienced diplomat and has been serving as the United States Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo since September of 2018.