June 20, 2024

Top Biden officials Antony Blinken and Linda Thomas-Greenfield begin Africa tour to strengthen ties, counter Russia and China and confront global food crisis and human rights abuses

Antony Blinken (Left) and Linda Thomas-Greenfield (Right)
Antony Blinken (Left) and Linda Thomas-Greenfield (Right)

Amnesty International has raised alarm about deteriorating human rights situations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, telling the United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken who will be visiting both countries next week during his second Africa tour as President Joseph R. Biden’s top diplomat that his trip “will only be successful if human rights are front and center.”

Blinken will travel to South Africa August 7-9, the Democratic Republic of the Congo on August 9-10 and Rwanda on August 10-12. It will be his second official trip to Africa since he was sworn into office last year.

“Secretary Blinken’s trip to the region is a positive step for US engagement but will only be successful if human rights are front and center,” Kate Hixon, Africa Advocacy Director at Amnesty International USA, said in a statement sent to Today News Africa in Washington D.C. “The military escalation in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has been devastating for civilians. In his meetings with both the Congolese and the Rwandans, Secretary Blinken must emphasize the importance of adhering to their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law and insist that justice and accountability for decades of violations must be part of a holistic approach to ending the circle of violence in Africa’s Great Lakes region.”

Hixon said that “While recognizing legitimate frustrations of the Congolese people on the shortfalls on the UN and DRC forces’ ability to guarantee effective security in eastern DRC, Secretary Blinken must press on the importance of the inviolability of the UN premise with his Congolese counterparts. He must call on Congolese officials to investigate and prosecute those responsible for recent acts of violence against the UN personnel and installations in North Kivu. The deaths of UN personnel, Congolese protesters and bystanders, including during the recent incident where the UN forces opened fire and killed at least two people at the Kasindi border post on Sunday July 31, must thoroughly be investigated.”

Jean-Mobert Senga, Amnesty International’s researcher for the DRC added that “In the DRC it is imperative that Secretary Blinken raise the ongoing State of Siege in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. At minimum he should ask President Tshisekedi to revoke the powers given to military courts to prosecute civilians, lift all human rights restrictions, and ensure that the State of Siege does not become permanent by outlining a clear exit strategy. In addition, he should emphasize the importance of media freedom and that one cannot arbitrarily detain journalists.”

“In Rwanda, Secretary Blinken must take this opportunity to call on President Kagame to refrain from any action that could further destabilize the region and put at risk millions of civilians in eastern DRC. In addition, he must press President Kagame on the numerous human rights violations in Rwanda, including threats and restrictions faced by human rights defenders and journalists, and should raise concerns over the failure by Rwanda to guarantee a fair trial in the case of Paul Rusesabagina,” Senga said.

The United States Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Mary Catherine Phee last week explained in details why Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken is traveling to South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda from August 7 through 12, asserting that the three African nations are significant players on the continent and across the globe.

Catherine Phee and East Asian and Pacific Affairs Assistant Secretary Daniel J. Kritenbrink spoke with reporters via teleconference on Friday, July 29, to preview Blinken’s upcoming travel to Cambodia, the Philippines, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda from August 2 through 12.

Secretary Blinken will use this trip to launch the U.S. Strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa and strengthen ties with African nations, as the battle for influence similar to Cold War era rages on the continent between the United States, China, Russia and the European Union. The announcement of his trip on Friday morning followed similar visits by Russian, French, and other American officials, who have been crisscrossing the continent to win hearts and minds amid the war in Ukraine and a global food crisis.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and French President Emmanuel Macron visited several African nations recently, a week after Samantha Power, the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International development returned from the continent. The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield has also been traveling to Ghana and Uganda this week. The United States Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa (SEHOA) Michael Hammer also traveled to Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Ethiopia July 24-August 1 to help forge a diplomatic resolution to issues related to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) as well as the devastating crisis in Tigray.

“In South Africa, the Secretary will lead the U.S. delegation to the U.S.-South Africa Strategic Dialogue. This dialogue will focus on health, environment, trade and investment, and infrastructure, priorities for both countries. Given South Africa’s leadership role, it’s an ideal location for the Secretary to deliver a speech announcing and describing the U.S. strategy toward sub-Saharan Africa,” Catherine Phee told reporters on July 29.

She said, “In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Secretary will meet with senior government officials as well as members of civil society to discuss efforts to hold peaceful, on-time free and fair elections in 2023. He will want to hear the Congolese perspective about regional efforts to address the role of armed groups in eastern Congo and the recent spike in violence, including attacks against MONUSCO peacekeepers.

“In both the DRC and Rwanda, the Secretary will highlight the need for respect for territorial integrity and explore how the United States can support efforts to reduce tensions. In Kigali, he looks forward to the opportunity to meet President Kagame for the first time since he became Secretary of State to discuss a range of national and regional issues. He will raise the case of Paul Rusesabagina, whom the Secretary has determined has been wrongfully detained.

“At each stop, he will seek an exchange on the importance of democracy, good governance, and respect for human rights. As you know, these are longstanding U.S. values that are part of all of our discussions, as Dan just described as well.

“The Secretary is really interested in exploring how we can broaden economic prosperity. As you know, we’re committed to contributing to efforts to build Africa’s self-sufficiency and resilience and to promote inclusive development. To that end, we’re working with African governments and businesses, entrepreneurs, civil society, the U.S. private sector, and IFIs and MDBs to accelerate sustainable economic growth across the continent and to help Africans manage the disruptive economic shock of COVID and the food security crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Finally, the Secretary will focus on the devastating impacts of climate change. We are continuing to partner with African leaders to tackle the climate crisis and to work together on clean energy development and to provide needed tools and innovation to transition for the future. We will want to consult on the decision to open up the Congolese rain forest to oil and gas exploration. The consequences for the DRC, for Africa, and for the world are immense. And we’ll also want to continue to work with the Congolese Government on how they can best diversify and grow their economy sustainably.

“Just to note, we’ve had a lot of travel to Africa this summer. In June, Under Secretary Nuland went to Somalia, Djibouti, Mozambique, and Nigeria. Under Secretary Zeya just returned from a trip to Mozambique and Namibia. Derek Chollet this week has been in Senegal, and Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield is going next week to Uganda and Rwanda. We’ll also have a lot of CODELs in August. So all of this is designed to create opportunities for us to meet our partners in person and to collaborate on these critical issues.”

Regardless of how Mary Phee is characterizing Blinken’s trip to Africa, it will all be about the battle for influence on the continent between the United States, Russia and China.

Right now, with the devastating war on Ukraine and fears that China may invade Taiwan, the United States, the European Union, China, and Russia seem back in the Cold War era where the West is portraying the East as the bad guys and the East is portraying the West as the bad ones.

In Cameroon recently, Emmanuel Macron called on the African continent for what he described as “hypocrisy” during a news conference in Yaounde with President Paul Biya of Cameroon on Tuesday, asserting that while Europe had identified Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a war, much of Africa had not.

“I have seen too much hypocrisy, particularly on the African continent,” he said. “I’m saying this very calmly – with some not calling it a war when it is one and saying they don’t know who started it because they have diplomatic pressure.”

His remarks came on the second day of a three-nation tour of Africa at the same time that the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was visiting other African nations, including Ethiopia, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Lavrov sang praises for Africa for understanding what he described as the “root cause” of the war in Ukraine and reminded Africans not to forget those who colonized them and have continued to harm them.

He even published a column in newspapers in Egypt, Congo, Uganda and Ethiopia, the four countries he toured, telling Africans, “We appreciate the considered African position as to the situation in and around Ukraine,” adding that “Although unprecedented by its scale, the pressure from beyond has not brought our friends to join the anti-Russian sanctions. Such an independent path deserves deep respect.”

The White House last week blasted Lavrov‘s African tour, asserting that he is “attempting to stem the onslaught of outrage against Russia” after invading Ukraine and causing a global food crisis. On his trip, Lavrov made the case that the invasion of Ukraine was justified and is not the cause of the global food crisis affecting Africa.

“The Russian federation knows its horrific war against Ukraine has caused the majority of the international community to see it as a pariah state,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a press briefing in Washington.

She said Russia has created a global food crisis by preventing grain exports and that Its bombing of the Odesa port is a violation of its own agreements. “Foreign Minister Lavrov as you just stated is attempting to engage with countries to try to stem the onslaught of outrage against Russia, especially by misrepresenting Russia’s role in causing a surge in global food insecurity,” said Jean-Pierre.

Lavrov, who visited Egypt last week Sunday, was in Congo-Brazzaville last week Monday, Uganda last week Tuesday, and Ethiopia last week Wednesday where he held meetings at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

The variety of opinions and positions in Africa was more evident last March when at least 25 of 54 African nations abstained from a vote to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine during the United Nations General Assembly, as many countries in the continent avoided taking a side on the war.

Blinken’s visit to Africa is coming after a trip to Cambodia, the Philippines. Secretary Blinken first traveled to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, August 3-5 to participate in the U.S.-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and the ASEAN Regional Forum. 

At each ministerial, the Secretary emphasized the United States’ commitment to ASEAN centrality and successful implementation of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.  He also addressed the COVID-19 pandemic, economic cooperation, the fight against climate change, the crisis in Burma, and Russia’s war in Ukraine.  The Secretary met bilaterally with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn to discuss U.S. support for ASEAN and efforts to strengthen our bilateral relationship with Cambodia.  Secretary Blinken also engaged with alumni of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative.

In Manila, the Philippines, on August 6, the Secretary met with President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr. and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo to discuss bilateral efforts to strengthen the U.S.-Philippines alliance, including through increased cooperation on energy, trade, and investment, advancing our shared democratic values, and pandemic recovery.

East Asian and Pacific Affairs Assistant Secretary Daniel J. Kritenbrink who briefed reporters on Friday alongside Mary Catherine Phee described Blinken’s trip to Asia as coming at “a profoundly important time in our relationship with ASEAN.”

Blinken is now headed to Africa with his first stop being South Africa where he will unveil the new U.S. policy for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Representative to the United Nations, began her own trip to the continent on Thursday, August 4, 2022, with a first stop in Uganda, ahead of Secretary Blinken’s tour.

She is on a four-day trip to Uganda, Ghana, and Cabo Verde from August 4 to 7 “to affirm and strengthen the U.S.-Africa partnership and to discuss the disproportionate impacts of rising food insecurity and commodity prices on African countries as well as a number of issues critical to regional peace and security.”

On Thursday, August 4, 2022, she met with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, and they discussed a broad range of global issues and regional security challenges, the United States Mission to the United Nations said in a statement, adding that “During the meeting, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield reiterated the importance of supporting democratic institutions in Uganda.”

“Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield and President Museveni consulted on their shared commitment to helping advance peace in Somalia, South Sudan, and the Great Lakes region. They also discussed efforts to help mitigate the effect of Russia’s war on Ukraine on global food security and commodity prices, which were already heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change,” the statement read. “Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield expressed appreciation for Uganda’s long-standing open-door policy and hospitality for refugees, its leadership on global health security, and its commitment to economic development.”

In remarks to Ugandan officials, farmers, consumers, and employees during a visit to Maganjo Grain Millers in Kampala on August 4, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield blasted Russia for causing a global food crisis with its invasion of Ukraine.

“We know that food insecurity has been rising,” she said. “If you look at the situation related to climate change, you look at COVID, conflict in many areas, and particularly the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine – I’m hearing that the vast majority of the wheat that is being utilized in this plant comes from Ukraine – the high costs of energy. We all need to come together around the globe to start to work to address the food insecurity needs. We know that no child, no person should ever have to go to bed hungry. And it is all of our responsibilities across the globe to work to address those issues together.

“So, it does mean addressing climate change, it means addressing the issues that came out of COVID, particularly as it relates to supply chain, it means addressing the issues of conflict wherever those conflicts may occur, it means ending the Russian aggression against Ukraine.”

The next day, on Friday, August 5, 2022, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield traveled to Ghana where she announced more than $127 million in humanitarian assistance for Africa through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. 

The new assistance will provide lifesaving support to refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, stateless persons, and persecuted people across Africa, including those affected by crises in Burkina Faso, Chad, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Niger, and other new and protracted displacement situations.

In addition to emergency needs, it will also support durable solutions for former refugees who wish to return to their home countries.  This assistance will enable our humanitarian partners to help many of the over seven million refugees and asylum seekers currently hosted across Africa as well the over 25 million internally displaced persons.

These funds will provide lifesaving and life-sustaining support to forcibly displaced populations, including those affected by the growing food crisis and global shortages and their hosting communities across Africa.  We urge other donors to provide additional support to address the growing humanitarian needs on the continent. 

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield also delivered a keynote address in Accra, Ghana, on Friday, on the global food security crisis, which is having particularly devastating consequences for the African continent. In her speech, entitled, “A Vision for Peace and Food Security in Africa,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield also condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and accused Putin’s war of causing a global food crisis affecting the continent.

She also met with the Commandant of the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center (KAIPTC), Ghanaian Major General Francis Ofori. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield and Major General Ofori discussed ways to continue building on U.S.-Ghana peacekeeping partnerships to enhance peacekeeping performance and effectiveness around the world. 

She expressed her appreciation for Ghana’s strong commitment to international peacekeeping as the seventh largest peacekeeping contributor globally, having contributed peacekeepers for more than 50 years.

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield and Major General Ofori discussed the KAIPTC’s current training priorities and challenges, including instilling a solid understanding of protection of civilians in today’s peacekeepers, her office said.

That same day on Friday, August 5, 2022, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Representative to the United Nations, also met with Ghanaian Foreign Minister Shirley Botchwey in Accra, Ghana. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield thanked Foreign Minister Botchwey for Ghana’s leadership and collaboration on addressing urgent peace and security challenges in the UN Security Council.   

“Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield and Foreign Minister Botchwey discussed ways the United States and Ghana can work together to address the impacts of rising food insecurity and commodity prices on African countries. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield emphasized the importance of the U.S.-Ghana relationship and stressed that bilateral and multilateral cooperation is essential to ensuring peace in West Africa for the next generation.,” her office said.

On Saturday, August 6, 2022, she met with Northern Regional Minister Shani Alhassan Saibu during her visit to Tamale and Sagnerigu in the Northern Region of Ghana.  

According to her office, “Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield and Minister Saibu discussed Ghanaian-led solutions to effectively address regional security vulnerabilities and chieftaincy disputes. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield recommitted the United States, including through USAID, to partnering with Ghana to empower citizens to advocate for the security of their communities and foster development in the Northern Region.”

Also on Saturday, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield met with Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo in Accra, Ghana.

She thanked President Akufo-Addo for Ghana’s leadership on the international stage during its Presidency of the Economic Community of West African States and for Ghana’s partnership in the UN Security Council. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield conveyed the United States’ desire to work collaboratively with Ghana to advance our shared economic, security, and environmental interests in West Africa and the Atlantic Basin. 

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield and President Akufo-Addo discussed the importance of ensuring the safety and security of UN peacekeepers deployed to missions across Africa, and Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield expressed appreciation for Ghana’s role in contributing and training peacekeepers, her office said.

She met in Praia with Cabo Verdean Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva and Foreign Minister Rui Figueiredo on Sunday where she underscored the strong partnership between the United States and Cabo Verde, built on shared democratic values and our interest in deepening security cooperation, commercial relations, and action to address climate change. 

The leaders also discussed U.S. support for pandemic recovery, food security in Cabo Verde, and priorities for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington December 13-15. 

You can read in full remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield on a Vision for Peace and Progress on Food Security in Africa 

Good afternoon. I want to start by thanking Pro Vice Chancellor Asante for that kind introduction and to say how delighted I am to be here at the University of Ghana.  

Professor, I actually came on this campus the first time in 1978. And as we were driving through – [Applause.], I remember thinking how beautiful it was when I came here in 1978, and it still has that beauty that it had during that visit. So, again, delighted to be here. [Applause.] 

And then secondly, I want to thank the drummers. You know, as I was walking in, I will tell you that I’m a walker. And I have a drumming piece on my music, and when I’m walking to those drums, I walk at the speed of lightning. And so, as you were drumming, all I can think about was getting out there walking. So thank you for reminding me that I need to walk.  

And I want to thank everyone else for joining us today to talk about peace, progress, and food security in Africa.  

Sixty-five years ago, a group of esteemed Americans visited Ghana to mark its independence. In particular, two personal heroes of mine, two African American men, came to see the Union Jack come down. Both men were civil rights activists. One had won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts, and the other would win that prize several years later. They both identified with Ghana’s struggle for freedom, independence, dignity, and sovereignty. They believed that the world was connected – that progress in Ghana meant progress not just in Africa, but in America too.     

They were Ralph Bunche, a founding father of the United Nations, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an icon of America’s civil rights movement.      

I bring up their fateful visit to remind us that the connection between Ghana and America, between Africa and America, runs deep. That while some of that history is painful, other parts are joyous. America is home to so much of the African diaspora – and our people are tied together, through bonds of family and friendship, and history, and our fates are intertwined. 

After all, President Nkrumah was educated in the United States at a historically black college, and W.E.B. Du Bois, one of my country’s foremost Black intellectuals and a titan of the civil rights movement, is buried here in Ghana.    

I am also calling attention to the 65th anniversary of your independence, and of Ralph Bunche and Dr. King’s visit, because I am here today to talk about the connection between food, peace, and prosperity. And both Bunche and King understood that connection better than anyone.   

In his Nobel Peace Prize speech, Dr. King spelled out what he was fighting for. He said, and I quote, “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”   

Ralph Bunche made a similar point in his own Nobel speech. He argued, and I quote, “Peace is no mere matter of men fighting or not fighting.”    

“Peace,” he said, “…must be translated into bread or rice, shelter, health, and education, as well as freedom and human dignity – a steadily better life.” Peace must be translated into bread or rice. I wonder if he was thinking about Jollof rice.      

But right now, the world does not have peace because of persistent and pernicious conflicts, yes, but also because rice and bread are not reaching hungry people around the globe. I have worked on humanitarian causes for nearly 40 years. And today, despite all the modern tools we have at our disposal, we’re experiencing the worst – let me repeat – the worst global food security crisis I have ever seen. This is an emergency.     

Here in Africa, one out of every five people are undernourished – one in five. They do not, in Dr. King’s words, have three meals for their bodies. They barely have one. Food insecurity means families are not able to provide for their children. It means children not getting the nutrition they need to succeed at school. And in the worst cases, it means famine. And famine means death.     

That’s why we have to be determined to stamp out hunger. To translate peace into bread and rice. And to do that, we cannot just supply food to the hungry – although that is incredibly important. We also have to look at what is causing that hunger, what is driving food insecurity in the first place.   

And right now, I see four clear causes: what I call the “E” and the three “C’s”. Energy. Climate. COVID. And Conflict.   

Let’s start with energy. Energy prices have gone up in the past year – anyone who has to regularly fill up their gas tank or pay an electric bill knows this all too well. The reasons are complex and interrelated – such as supply chain issues, climate change – but the result is clear: rising energy prices. Plus, Russia’s manipulation of gas flows is now further spiking prices.     

This can have a devastating effect on the food cycle. After all, energy is used to produce the chemical fertilizer that helps crops grow. Then, farmers use energy, usually diesel, to run harvesting equipment before their crops are processed in plants where more energy is needed. And then you also need energy to get that harvested food to stores, to restaurants, to markets, and from stores to your homes. So higher energy costs mean higher food costs.     

Then there’s the climate crisis – a crisis Africans are deeply familiar with. I have been in Africa for most of my professional career – at posts in Kenya, the Gambia, and Nigeria, as Assistant Secretary of African Affairs, and as the first female Ambassador to Liberia. And every time I come back, I’m struck by how much the climate has transformed the environment. It has gotten hotter. This means shorter growing seasons for farmers, which means smaller annual yields. The climate crisis is also killing off animals, like cattle and fish.    

Here in Ghana, many who fish for a living are seeing smaller catches as water temperatures rise. And dramatic climate events have become even more common.    

I was in Uganda yesterday and I was briefed on the flash floods and landslides in the east, which left hundreds homeless.    

And right now, the Horn of Africa is experiencing its worst drought on historical record. The World Food Program estimates that up to 20 million people may risk going hungry in that region.    

Somalia, in particular, is on the brink of famine – tens of thousands of people are desperately traveling across the barren wilderness looking for food. More than 700,000 camels, goats, sheep, cattle died in just the first two months of this year from drought-related causes.      

But it is children who are suffering the most – almost half of those under five in Somalia face acute malnutrition. Mothers who don’t have enough to eat stop producing the breastmilk their children need to survive and thrive. Fewer crops, fewer animals, more floods and droughts. It adds up.    

Think of all the technological advancements we’ve had over the past 60 years. How much better we’ve gotten at growing and harvesting foods. And yet, according to the UN, agricultural productivity growth here in Africa has gone down – it has gone down over the past 30 years by more than a third because of climate change.   

So yes, the climate crisis is a crisis of natural disasters, of floods and storms and heatwaves. But it also directly leads to a food security crisis. It makes it much harder to feed people.   

And while the climate has been making it harder to source food for years,now COVID-19 gave us an immediate and additional shock to the system. COVID disrupted the labor markets that farmers across the region and the world rely on. It upended our supply chains and it made it harder to get food to market. And economic hardships and inflation, another consequence of this virus, have made it more difficult for people to afford the food that does get to market. Before COVID, 100 million people were food insecure. Three years later, just in three years, that number jumped to over 190 million people.    

And then there’s the third “C,” which I believe is the most insidious source of hunger. That is hunger caused by conflict. Hunger that is caused intentionally. Hunger used as a weapon of war. 

Africa offers a heartbreaking litany of examples. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic, violence has led to displacement of millions of acutely malnourished children.   

Fighting in Northern Ethiopia, and the drought in Ethiopia’s Somali region, have driven innocent civilians to the brink of starvation. And while we welcome the recent humanitarian truce in Northern Ethiopia, which has held for more than four months now, acute malnutrition is still a grave concern nationwide. The government has just started allowing us to get humanitarian aid to those who need it desperately, but much more needs to be done to reach vulnerable populations beyond urban areas.   

In South Sudan, while searching for safety from violence, families and children have been forced to hide in swamps where they barely survive off of wild foods and contaminated river water.   

And then there’s Russia’s war in Ukraine. 


As the UN Representative from Kenya reminded us in the Security Council, invasions based on historic and ethnic claims have no place in our modern world. Those who know the painful legacy of colonialism firsthand can see the threat of chaos that would ensue, especially on this continent, if territorial conquest and conquering your neighbor is back on the table. 

 

I’ve also heard from some that Africans don’t really want to be pressured to pick a side or take a certain position. I understand that. None of us want to repeat the Cold War. And Africans have the right to decide their foreign policy positions, free of pressure and manipulation, free of threats. But let me be clear: I’m not here to tell you or any Africans what to think. 

 

But I do want to present the facts. Earlier, I told you that over 190 million people were food insecure after COVID. Well since Russia’s unprovoked war, full-scale invasion into Ukraine, we estimate that number could rise to 230 million. That would mean that more than 40 million people will have become food insecure since President Putin chose to invade his neighbor and steal their land. That’s more people than the entire population of Ghana. 

Why? Because Russia has systematically captured some of Ukraine’s most productive farmland. They have spoiled fields with mines and bombs, they have stolen and destroyed vital agricultural equipment and infrastructure. They have even bombed grain silos and are selling grain that we believe was stolen from Ukraine’s stockpiles.  

The fact is, this hurts Africa. Russia and Ukraine provide over 40 percent of Africa’s wheat supplies. Russia’s blockage of the Black Sea kept over 20 million tons of Ukrainian grain from global markets and threatened food security across the Middle East and Africa. Food prices worldwide are 23 percent higher than a year ago. But they hit the hardest in sub-Saharan Africa, where food consumes 40 percent of household budgets. 

 

Regardless of how you feel about Russia, we all have a powerful common interest in mitigating the impact of the war on Ukraine on food security. To that end, we have supported the UN’s efforts to broker a deal so Ukraine could start shipping its agricultural commodities again out from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. We welcomed the departure of the vessels carrying grain from Black Sea ports this week. And we urge Russia to uphold its commitments to allow Ukraine’s farmers to once again supply the world with grain. In the meantime, we are also working with Ukraine and the EU to facilitate agricultural exports through all available road, rail, and maritime routes.   

 

I’ve heard many African leaders say they want diplomacy to end the war, and we could not agree more. Moscow and Kyiv will need to find ways to live together in peace. It’s always better to solve disagreements at the negotiating table and not on the battlefield. Unfortunately, we’ve seen no indication that Russia is prepared to accept a diplomatic solution. Nevertheless, we owe it to the people of Ukraine, who are suffering so much, to support all efforts to end the war through good-faith dialogue and negotiations on terms the Ukrainians themselves decide.  

 

Now I know some folks have come here and told you that Western sanctions are to blame for rising food prices. And again, I’m not telling you what to think, but I do want to provide you with the facts. The fact is that our sanctions are targeted at Putin and his supporters, not agriculture and food, which are specifically carved out of the sanctions. 

 

Let me say that again since this is such a regular piece of disinformation: America’s sanctions do not, let me repeat, do not apply to food and fertilizer exports. Period.  

We’ve taken extra steps to issue extensive public guidance to make sure that companies and financial institutions understand that food and fertilizer are not the target of our sanctions. We’ve even created a sanctions “help desk” to clear up any and all misunderstandings on food security issues, and we’re happy to engage with anyone who has questions.  

But Russia itself is taking steps that limit exports to the world. For example, Moscow has imposed export quotas on nitrogen and complex fertilizers that will be in place until at least the end of the year. A lack of fertilizer today bakes in a food security crisis for tomorrow. Russia also imposed extra duties on its own farmers’ grain exports, even though Russia had a bumper crop this year.  

 

All of this to say: Russia’s war in Ukraine only makes an already horrific food crisis even more dire. 

 

And all of these problems  energy, climate, COVID, and conflict  combine into a complex cocktail that has led to the worst hunger crisis of our lifetimes. This kind of unprecedented global crisis calls for an unprecedented global response.   

That’s why I have consistently brought this issue to the UN Security Council. The world needs to see how food insecurity increases the risk of conflict. And the Security Council needs to do a better job of stopping food from being used as a weapon of war.   

 

For our part, in May, during the United States Presidency of the Security Council, Secretary Blinken joined me in New York, and we hosted a series of Days of Action on Food Security. We brought together partners from around the world to craft a Roadmap for Global Food Security. The Roadmap calls for UN Member States to provide additional humanitarian funding and in-kind donations of food from national stockpiles to keep food and agricultural markets open, to increase fertilizer production, to support sustainable food systems, and to monitor and share data on global food market developments.  

Over a hundred countries have now signed on to a common picture of this crisis and a common agenda for addressing it. And since May, we have been working together with the UN, the G7, and others to encourage partnerships on addressing this issue with more donors around the world. In fact, President Biden secured a commitment for $4.5 billion in funding for food security at the G7 Summit. And to demonstrate just how much we care about this issue, the United States commitment was more than half of this total: $2.76 billion.  

When others travel to Africa, I think it’s worth asking them how much they’re contributing to these efforts, because this needs to be a multilateral, global effort. As we face down the immediate threat and look to get as much food and humanitarian supplies to as many hungry and desperate people as possible, we also have to take on the root causes of energy, climate, and COVID, and conflict. Each of these root causes, and how we are working together to tackle them, could easily be their own speech, their own conversation. 

But amidst all of these difficult, generational challenges, there actually are opportunities. The food security crisis can be a clarion call both for Ghana and for Africa. The crisis can galvanize the resources, the infrastructure, the connections needed to make this country and this continent its own breadbasket. To provide your own food to your people and, perhaps, to the rest of the world. Now I know this is hard to imagine in the middle of a food security crisis. But I also know it’s possible, and I know you know it’s possible.  

Two decades after Ralph Bunche and Dr. King came to Ghana, another very important African-American arrived here: me. [Applause.] 

It was 1978 – I was telling you about that in the beginning and I was a student when I came here in 1978 – and it was my first time ever leaving the United States. And I had come to Africa to see the continent my ancestors came from. And I felt an immediate connection, and I knew then and there that I wanted to spend my career working and living in Africa. And I traveled from country to country by bush taxi. And in Ghana, I remember being struck by your natural beauty. Bright, green, lush. Miles of sandy beaches. I also learned about your natural resources. An emerging cacao industry. Land with plenty of rainfall and good soil and crops.  

But in other ways, Ghana was completely a different country. Most of you were not around in 1978, there are a few of us who are that age. You were under a military dictatorship. Your economy was in shambles. You could barely find food in the markets. And in the bush taxi that I traveled in, people were fleeing to Nigeria in hopes of finding work.   

I’ve traveled to Ghana often since then. I was here to observe the 2016 general elections and your president’s inauguration in 2017. I have watched this country’s rapid and radical transformation toward democracy, toward stability, toward food security, toward peace. Ghana is evolving and still has much more progress to make.   

But the Ghana of today is an entirely new country from the Ghana I experienced in 1978. Despite some malnutrition challenges in part of the north, Ghana is now a leader on this continent for food security and food systems. You have a strong base to build on. But in my mind, Ghana is nowhere near its peak. Nor is Africa more broadly. Ghana can supply even more local foods. It can become an agribusiness hub. It can become a breadbasket for the world. [Applause.] And of course, Ghana is not the only country with that potential here in Africa. Nigeria has huge swaths of arable land. So does the Democratic Republic of Congo. And the list goes on and on.  

My point is this: for too long, the wealthy and powerful have extracted Africa’s natural resources for their own gain. And it continues today through bad deals and debt traps.  

We want to see an Africa that provides for Africa, with self-sustaining food supplies that translates peace into sugar bread, chapatis, injera, and Jollof rice that you can share with the globe. Your potential is simply extraordinary.  

Of course, reaching that world is still going to take a lot of hard work. It will take resources. It will take perseverance, commitment, and good governance. It will mean calling on the large and prosperous African diaspora to help you make progress. Efforts like the 2019 Year of Return are a great way to unlock the potential of that diaspora, which has billions of dollars and vast troves of priceless experience to offer. It will mean partnering with governments, with NGOs, and with agribusiness – a topic I know we’ll be discussing at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in December. It will mean taking on the complex network of challenges that cause food insecurity to begin in the first place. But I believe it can lead to peace and prosperity for all of us.  

For our part, the United States is committed to this work. It is the foundation of Feed the Future, our global hunger and food security initiative, which President Biden dramatically expanded this summer to include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia – joining twelve other target countries, including Ghana.  

But more funding is needed to address food security and to address crises that compound food security, like the refugees and internally displaced people who are forced from their homes and put a strain on the food systems wherever they find shelter.  

And that’s why, today, I’m proud to announce nearly $150 million in new, additional humanitarian funding and development assistance, pending Congressional notification, for Africa. [Applause.] That includes the 20 million I announced yesterday in Uganda, which will go toward expanding investments in fertilizer, grains, and other crops – with the goal of increasing resilience to future shocks in Uganda. Yesterday I visited a grain milling factory in Uganda that we are helping to support, and I saw just how critical it is to keep these factories running.  

Today the funds I’m announcing also include additional funding for Ghana that focuses on developing and marketing innovative fertilizer products, and offer support to importers and manufacturers, including private sector partners, to bring more fertilizer into this country.  

Even before this additional aid, here in Ghana we’ve been assisting more than 638,000 smallholder farmers to adapt to price spikes by helping them use local fertilizer sources. We’re also promoting the use of improved seeds that need less fertilizer and encouraging private sector and agribusiness partnerships that will bring the resources, the technology, and the know-how to build up a farming infrastructure. 

Finally, we know that conflicts can weaponize hunger and force people to leave their homes. That leads to mass displacement, which leads to internally displaced people and refugees, which puts strains on the food systems of surrounding countries. So, the funding I’m announcing today includes more than $127 million in additional humanitarian assistance for Africa to provide for lifesaving support to refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, stateless persons, and persecuted people across Africa. And let me just say that this brings us to about $6.6 billion of humanitarian assistance to Africa since the beginning of this fiscal year.  

And I want to thank Ghana and all African countries who have opened their doors and opened their borders to those who seek refuge, who are seeking protection from conflict. 

The humanitarian funds will also be used to address human impacts felt by refugees and those displaced here in Africa and the communities which host them. It will help those affected by crises in Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Nigeria, Niger, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, and other new and protracted displacement situations. It will support humanitarian partners who make life better for the seven million refugees and 25 million internally displaced people in Africa. And it will go toward building a peace that translates to bread and rice for all who are hungry.  

In that same Nobel Peace Prize speech, Ralph Bunche went on to talk about the immediate necessity of progress. He said, “If peace is to be secure, long-suffering and long-starved, forgotten peoples of the world, the underprivileged and the undernourished, must begin to realize without delay the promise of a new day and a new life.”  

Du Bois had a similar message when he said, “Today is the seed time, now are the hours of work, and tomorrow comes the harvest.”   

Together, their words would preview what Dr. King later called the ‘fierce urgency of now.’  

Today, the food security crisis provides all the urgency we need. Now is the moment to work together across governments, across countries, between people, to end hunger. Now is the moment to forge partnerships with civil society, the private sector, to galvanize the diaspora, to take advantage of new technologies and better techniques, to build the food systems and the structures of the future.  

Now is the time, now is the time to feed the future, to transform Ghana and other African nations into breadbaskets of your own. The world is hungry, and your potential is unlimited. And there is not a moment to lose.   

Thank you. [Applause.] 

MODERATOR: Please, you can keep the applause going. I know you loved that. [Applause.] Great, thank you. Thank you so much. I think you can take your seats now. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield will take some questions. I know some of you are yearning to ask some questions. And we have our first question coming up here. It’s from one of the alumni group, and I’ll just pass over the microphone for our first question. You can introduce yourself and go ahead with the question. 

QUESTION: Thank you so much for your very moving presentation. I am Priscilla Akoto Bamfo. I’ve lived in the northern region for 10 years, so I’m a daughter of the North. I wanted to ask you about the youth. Africa has the youngest population of the world. You know that we are the key to Africa’s sustainable development. However, the youth and agribusiness, like myself, face very steep challenges that cause many enterprising youth to quit and exit the agribusiness very quickly. Skyrocketing costs associated with food production, will exacerbate an already low food productivity in Ghana. As alluded to by Franklin Cudjoe. The youth engaged in active business need the most support, in my opinion, to ensure that they can thrive and contribute to sustainable solutions on food security.  

My question: Are there U.S. policies to support such businesses? And what are these policies specifically? Thank you once again. [Applause.] 

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you for that question, Priscilla. And that is such an important question. Many times, when I’m giving speeches before audiences, I remind them that Africa is the youngest population. The median age is 19. And so, it is incumbent on governments and their builders to focus on supporting the efforts of young people to engage in agriculture, and as I know that there’s so much potential there. And I know that our USAID colleagues are working here in Ghana to support efforts of small farmers, so that would include young people like yourself.  

We have the YALI program where we bring young leaders, as many of you are, to the United States to enhance your leadership skills and some of your technical business skills to support your goals, whatever they might be. The African Development Foundation provides small grants, as well. And I would encourage you to look at what they may be able to provide. But in the meantime, what you have here in Ghana is our USAID colleagues. And I don’t know who is in the room from USAID, please have a conversation with this young lady. Thank you. [Applause.] 

MODERATOR: So, there’s a second question. I believe Ruky knows who’s going to ask it. I know it’s coming up from up there. Yes, please go ahead. Your name and your question.  

QUESTION: Thank you very much. My name is [inaudible]. I’m a PhD student in [inaudible] –  

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I can’t hear you. 

QUESTION: OK, I said my name is Curtbert Nabilse. I am a PhD student in the Department of Agriculture, Economics, and Agribusiness. and I have a question that borders on GMOs. So, in Ghana we have recently had GM cowpea going through the first stage of approval for commercial release. And it’s exciting for some groups, but in other quarters, there are concerns that border on issues of food sovereignty, as well as issues concerning ownership and sharing of seeds as is practiced amongst our farmers in this place. But we know that GM technology, as far as crop production is concerned, is very important. I mean, it’s very important for ensuring food security in countries like Ghana.  

So, my question is: What is the U.S. doing? How is the U.S. influencing the commercial release of such crops to ensure food security in countries like Ghana? Thank you. 

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you for that question. And I don’t know that I know the exact answer. But I do know that we do support GM seeds and products, because we know that they contribute to food security. They help to increase crop yields. They help you to provide drought resistant seeds, and they are seen as helping to provide in many cases better nutrition. So again, it’s something that we support, and we work with companies to support. And again, I’ll refer you to our embassy colleagues who may have a specific answer to where to direct you on getting support for your efforts. But I can say that this is something that’s very much a priority for the U.S. government. 

You can also read in full remarks by Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield at a Press Conference Announcing $20 Million in Development Assistance in Uganda Amid a Global Food Crisis

MODERATOR: Good evening. Are we on? Okay, good evening. Welcome to our colleagues from the press corps, and welcome to Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Ambassador Brown, I’d like to invite you to give a few opening remarks and then we will pass the microphone to Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield to give her remarks. After that we will do five questions, one from each of the outlets here, and I’ll be moderating. So, thank you all for joining us and over to you, Ambassador Brown.

AMBASSADOR NATALIE BROWN: Okay, can you hear? Good evening, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us and thank you so much for your patience. I think everyone knows between traffic and sometimes meetings at State House, the schedules we have, things can go off a little bit. So, I really appreciate you coming and that you have waited for us to return.

We at the U.S. Mission here in Uganda are thrilled to have with us today Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who is the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations. She joined us for a full day to see some of the U.S. – the activities here in Uganda and some of the issues that we’re focused on. I will let her give you some of the details because I think she wants to – she can share her perceptions. But it was useful to meet with civil society, with the business community, and then of course we had a very cordial and candid conversation with President Museveni and some senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

So, I don’t want to steal any of the thunder and, again, I know you’ve been waiting for us to return, so thank you for coming. And Ambassador, over to you.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good. If you don’t mind, I’ll sit down having been going nonstop for about 24 hours. Good evening, everyone. And again, thank you so much for joining us this evening. It’s such a pleasure for me to be back here in Uganda.

So, I’m here on a long-planned trip that President Biden asked me to make as part of our persistent engagement with African nations. As you know, along with my visit, USAID Administrator Power visited Africa recently and Secretary Blinken will arrive later this week. We also look forward to hosting our African Leaders Summit in Washington in December.

During my visit today, President Museveni and I just had a productive and frank meeting where we discussed a broad range of issues, including the security situation in the region, food insecurity, and strengthening democratic institutions and an independent press. And to that end, I really want to thank all of you. I thank you for the incredible work that you do as journalists; a free press is the only way to have an informed public, and both are necessary for a healthy democracy. And thank you and your colleagues for everything you do under what I know can be challenging circumstances.

Of deep importance to me, President Museveni and I discussed food insecurity around the world, as well as the effects of Russia’s war in Ukraine on the availability of food and on oil prices. President Museveni and I also reinforced our shared commitment to advance peace efforts in Somalia and South Sudan and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. During our meeting, I expressed my appreciation for Ghana’s* role as a regional leader in peace and security and counterterrorism, particularly with ATMIS, the mission in Somalia.

Now, as we approach 60 years of enduring relations between the U.S. and Uganda, I want to reinforce that the United States is proud to work with Uganda to build a more peaceful, prosperous, and democratic future for the people of Uganda both here and for others across the region.

Part of what I did here today as well, I met with organizations that are hosting – that are supporting refugees, including the UNHCR. Every year, the U.S. invests millions of dollars in Uganda to promote economic growth and employment, improve health and education, refugee and humanitarian programs, and strengthen democratic values and security.

Of these investments is the Maganjo Grain Millers facility, which I also had the opportunity to visit earlier today. Agriculture is central to Uganda’s economy and to the lives of so many Ugandans. That’s precisely why the United States supports companies like Maganjo with business planning, due diligence, and many other financial services that boost production and help farmers to get the best prices for their products.

But over the past few years, access to food has become even more challenging due to the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, supply chain shocks, regional conflicts, and Putin’s war on Ukraine. The prices of food, fertilizer, and fuel have skyrocketed, with widespread hunger and malnutrition rising as well. And that’s why tonight I’m pleased to announce that the United States will provide an additional $20 million to help Uganda to expand investments in fertilizer, grains, and other crops with the goal of increasing resilience to future shocks. From individual households to entire communities, these investments will benefit at least 435,000 people across Uganda by increasing farmer productivity and reducing crop losses.

With these investments, our goal is simple: no one should go to bed hungry; no child should starve or waste away. Food must be affordable and accessible to all. I also want to again recognize and thank Uganda for hosting the most refugees of any country in Africa – more than 1.6 million refugees. And as I mentioned, I met with organizations earlier today.

I know and I heard today that the refugee response in Uganda is stretched as demands only continue to increase. The United States is proud to be the largest donor to Uganda’s refugee response, but we must do more. We all need to do much more. And that’s why last night – sorry, last month – the United States announced here in Kampala that we are providing more than $592 million in humanitarian aid across Africa for the millions who have been persecuted and forcibly displaced across the continent, and of that $592 million we’re providing Uganda with $82 million to address food insecurity, acute malnutrition, and urgent needs of refugees and host communities. And we’re supporting partners like UNHCR to provide lifesaving assistance and protection, as well as the World Food Program to deliver food to places it’s needed most, including in Karamoja sub-region of Uganda.

You can look forward to hearing more from me on this, including a related aid announcement in my speech in Ghana tomorrow, and I want to thank all of you for joining us here tonight. And with that, I look forward to taking questions from you.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Ambassador. I’d like you each to please introduce yourself when you ask your question, including what outlet you’re speaking from, and let’s try and keep the questions brief.

Halima, would you like to ask the first question?

QUESTION: Oh. (Laughter.) Yes, please. Thank you. Ambassador, my name is Halima Athumni and I work for Voice of America.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Nice to meet you.

QUESTION: Nice to meet you, too, Ambassador. First, my question is: You come just a few days after Russia’s Foreign Minister was here, and we all know that President Museveni has openly said, “I welcome everyone.” And I think people have felt like there’s been pressure from the U.S. or the Western countries for them – for Africa to choose sides, and then he insisted we are not going to choose a side, especially President Museveni. Is there a reason? Are you here to sway President Museveni to your side?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I am sure that’s what Foreign Minister Lavrov was here to do. But we have a very strong, abiding relationship with Uganda. This is not my first visit to Uganda; it will not be my last visit to Uganda. And I will tell you that my trip has been in the planning for quite some time. It just happened, coincidentally, to fall after the Lavrov visit.

But what my plans were here is to reaffirm and strengthen the U.S. relationship with Uganda, to discuss with Uganda solutions and how we are working as partners with Uganda to find solutions to food insecurity, high energy cost, and supporting – strongly supporting the refugee community that Uganda so generously hosts here in this country.

Uganda and any African country have the right to choose who their friends are and who their enemies are. We’re here as Uganda’s friend.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MODERATOR: The next question?

QUESTION: Hi, Ambassador. My name is Rodney Muhumuza and I represent the Associated Press. You just said that you have a strong, abiding relationship with Uganda, but I have to ask about Museveni himself, President Museveni. Where do you stand? Is he still a strong ally to the U.S.? And you admitted that you spoke on Tuesday during your press conference ahead of your visit – you were asked if African countries face sanctions for doing business with Russia, and this is what you said: “I would caution that countries should not engage with countries that have been sanctioned by the [U.S.].” Would you please provide a bit more context on that? What did you mean and what would be the consequences of that? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yes, and to your first question, yes, we still have a strong partnership with President Museveni. He has and continues to be a leader in this region, and I discussed with him a broad range of issues where we have mutual interests and where we could engage with each other.

On the issue of sanctions, so there are two points on this. One, Russia has a narrative that sanctions on food and agricultural products have led to the increase in prices that countries are experiencing, and I want – and I know this wasn’t exactly your question, but I do want to say that we have no sanctions on any agricultural products coming out of Russia. Russia can export their agricultural products and countries can buy Russian agricultural products, including fertilizer and wheat.

As for sanctions that we have on Russia – for example, oil sanctions – if a country decides to engage with Russia where there are sanctions, then they are breaking those sanctions; they’re breaking our sanctions and in some cases they’re breaking UN sanctions with other countries, and we caution countries not to break those sanctions because then, if they do, they stand the chance of having actions taken against them for breaking those sanctions.

MODERATOR: A question here.

QUESTION: Thanks very much. My name is Fredrick; I work with the Daily Monitor. The last time we interfaced, seven years ago –

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You must have been a kid. (Laughter.) Because I was. (Laughter.) I didn’t have gray hair.

QUESTION: It has changed. Anyhow, the last time we interfaced, seven years ago, nothing has changed here pretty much. The human rights are still a concern. Well, the same (inaudible), as you know. And perhaps your coming here, it was a – there was a tweet which was shared by one of the websites, and the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee retweeted again the same – your coming to Uganda – and Senator Menendez, who, as you know, has been very, very vocal about the Kampala regime and the things they do, as you are briefed routinely, saying that they want to see the Biden Administration take a stance.

Last time you were speaking in tongues; still you’re speaking in tongues.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I haven’t made – you’ve got to tell me what language that is. (Laughter.) Go ahead.

QUESTION: No, no, (inaudible) and stuff like that. I am clearly (inaudible) clearly. But the thing is there have been actual concerns. I’ve seen some people saying that – I don’t know if it was an official thing, but you want the President, for instance, to be blocked from the summit in November. I don’t know whether a decision has been taken yet, but if you clarify that I would be grateful.

But given what we saw from the last elections and then your description of the President as your ally, is it safe to say that he has you at hello, so in the position that he wants you to? Because clearly, you seem like you’re stuck with him.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, we talk to everyone on this continent, and my view is – and I think that’s a broad view of the U.S. government – that you have to engage with all leaders on this continent. And it is in those engagements that we can talk about the things that we have in common with each other or we can also talk about those issues that are of concern to us. And we don’t hesitate to raise those concerns with any government that we are engaging with.

So, we don’t speak in tongues. We’re speaking very clearly that the U.S. values are very well-known. We make clear that we value human rights. We make clear that we value democracy. We make clear that we value your right, every single one of you, your right to a free press without being harassed by governments. You may not sit in the room when we’re having those conversations with governments, but we’re very clear on our position, and this is a position that starts at the top.

As it relates to the African Leaders Summit, we’re still in the process of planning that summit, but our plan is to invite every country to the summit that is not under sanctions or by the – and are members of – current members of good standing with the African Union. And again, there may be people invited that countries disagree with. We’ve heard from several groups of people from different countries that their president shouldn’t be invited to the summit. We think this is an opportunity for us to engage on, again, the issues where we have mutual concerns. We all are concerned about terrorism and insecurity across the continent of Africa, and we should be able to have those discussions with countries, even those countries where we may have disagreements on other issues.

AMBASSADOR BROWN: Ambassador, may I elaborate a little bit?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Oh, and actually, you just mentioned the 30th anniversary of Daily Monitor. I want to congratulate you for that.

Yes.

AMBASSADOR BROWN: If I may, well, I’d – which I see some of you have a copy of our report to the Ugandan people. So, I’d also like to point out that when we talk about our relations here, we engage with government, we talk about things that we have in common, those areas where we might differ, but also so much of our relationship is about our relationship with the Ugandan people – in health, in education, in agriculture, in so many other sectors. And just today, one of the things that the Ambassador did here was meet with some of the alumni of our exchange programs, people who did work in epidemiology, who went to journalism school, internships with local government.

So, it’s a broad relationship, it’s multifaceted, and I think when we look at the number of people who are on ARVs – it’s over 1.2 million people living full, healthy lives – we’ve reduced mother-to-child transmission of HIV and AIDS, we’ve reduced childhood death due to malaria, and that all comes from the partnership that we have with the Ugandan people and Ugandan institutions.

So, I think you have to really think about the entire relationship and look at it in a holistic manner. Thank you.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you for clarifying, Ambassador. This is why we have ambassadors who really know what we’re doing.

QUESTION: Thank you for coming, Ambassador. Simon Masaba from New Vision. Just have four separate questions for you.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: How many?

QUESTION: Four separate questions.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Fulsome or foursome?

QUESTION: Okay.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I’m just joking. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. I’ll start with you are pumping money in the refugee – in UNHCR. And you’re talking about $82 million. About four years ago, we had issues to do with human rights abuses in refugee camps. Do you find it – do you see that everything you had – do you find it necessary to give it more money? Do you see that – what I’m trying to say is that we had human rights abuses in refugee camps. You are giving more money right now. Does it mean that this is no more in our camps?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, one of the things that UNHCR does is provide protection for refugees. So, if there are human rights violations being committed inside a refugee camp, it is UNHCR’s responsibility to ensure that that does cease. We have refugee coordinators. I served in this region as a refugee coordinator in the 1990s, and my job was to ensure that the funding that the U.S. government provided to UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies was used in the appropriate way.

And I can comment, of course, occasionally, we would find issues. But that was why we were there, to make sure those issues were addressed.

QUESTION: Okay. Second question. You talk about the 20 million aid. On the agenda, it’s all about food security. You are (inaudible) a country where the eastern side, outside Karamoja to be exact, we have over 200 people who are dying out of hunger. Do you find it – and then at the same time, you talk about visiting – you call it Maganjo.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yeah, the market and the millers. Do you find – do you find it necessary to give a country money where people are, if you have visited a country where sort of (inaudible) let me repeat the question. You have given us $20 million. In a country (inaudible), but (inaudible) does not buy enough. We can grow food. What has been your assessment when you visited some of the markets today?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Unfortunately, I didn’t go to markets, and I actually – that’s something that I actually try to do when I’m taking trips. I’m going to a market in Ghana, but I didn’t have that on my schedule here. But our concern is building capacity. It’s about ensuring that food production is improved, that we work with farmers. And I did meet with some farmers today when I was at the millers’, at the milling plant, to talk to them about providing them technical support and providing them with capacity so that they can produce better quality of food, more quantity, and also try, to the extent they can, to preserve their food from wastage so that they can address these. And certainly, we’re concerned about the reports of hunger. And this is something that, as a strong humanitarian country, that we work to address with the country but also directly with the people.

QUESTION: Okay. Last question from –

MODERATOR: I’m sorry. We have so many other people. I can’t let you just ask so many questions.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yeah.

MODERATOR: I’m so sorry.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: And the ambassador wants –

MODERATOR: You got two already.

AMBASSADOR BROWN: Thank you. I just want to elaborate on this one. And perhaps Dorothy can pass out the statement if it’s helpful. So, the Ambassador just announced the 20 million today, and she talked about some of the capacity-building that it’s going to address. Of the funds that were announced during the recent visit of the assistant secretary of state for population, refugees, and migration, there were funds specific for Karamoja and the situation there.

And we can provide the statements that include that breakdown. And if you look there, it’s – a lot of it’s being programmed through the World Food Program. And already, communities there were reading some of the emergency – receiving some of the emergency food assistance that that – that those funds addressed. So, it’s all in agriculture and food security and the – under the broader headline of it. But different allocations to do different programs because we recognize that it’s not just about addressing hunger. Again, you have to build capacity and strengthen systems so that perhaps you don’t have these acute hunger needs in the future. Thank you.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you.

MODERATOR: We’ll be passing you all of the press release momentarily. And I think this will be our final question from Uganda Radio Network.

QUESTION: Yeah. My name is Baker Bette, Uganda Radio Network. You have said earlier – and actually, I (inaudible) there and I also heard what you told CNN today – that what Russia is doing is disinformation. You say that you know the problems they are having for food (inaudible) so you sanctioned, but you sanctioned banks. You sanctioned insurance companies. Therefore, I have (inaudible).

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Okay. Let me stop. We have not sanctioned banks. The issue with the banks and the insurance companies is that they don’t have confidence in Russia’s markets. And so, we have worked to address the concerns that these financial institutions and insurance companies have so that they can provide the financing and the insurance. So, there are banks in Russia that have been sanctioned, but banks outside that could provide financing for companies that want to do business with Russia are a bit skittish. So, we’re working with them to address their concerns. There is a helpdesk in the Department of Treasury that we have opened up and provided so companies can reach out directly to us.

You can finish your question. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Okay. So, I was going to add that when you sanctioned those (inaudible) that I know for a fact that you have – there is a problem with SWIFT. Therefore, you had (inaudible) to transact when they are not on SWIFT. Then, if you know that, it means even when you have not sanctioned agriculture, but if you cannot transact, you can’t send money to Russia; therefore, you are – it is as good as sanctioning agriculture.

Also related to that, the president here was saying, for example, if you sanction their oil, and for us who need – one of the reasons we’re having high commodity prices, including food, is because of the price of fuel, of oil. And it is global. It is an important problem. So, part of what we are having here is, because of the sanctions on the oil, why do you have the problem with Uganda?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The reason you have a problem – and we don’t have a problem with Uganda. But the reason you have a problem with the sanctioning of oil is because Russia started a war with one of its neighbors, attacked that neighbor unprovoked, and they are being held accountable for it. The President was in the Middle East in the past few weeks working with OPEC countries to encourage them to increase their production. I saw an announcement today that OPEC would be increasing its production to address some of the concerns about the high price of oil.

But, yes, Russian oil is sanctioned, and we’re working to try to address some of the impact of oil prices on countries like Uganda. But it is not the sanctions. It is the unprovoked war that Russia itself started with Ukraine. And if they want to end this, they should end the war.

QUESTION: I – where the question was ending was that don’t you think you should be doing more than giving us 20 million if the problem of our higher commodity prices is as a result of having sanctioned Russian oil and, therefore, oil becoming expensive and also Uganda buying it expensive? Isn’t it? You have given more than all those (inaudible).

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I announced that –

QUESTION: So, wouldn’t you be giving us more than what you are giving us?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I announced an additional $20 million, and we can provide you with the amount of funding that we provide to Uganda. So, what I announced today was additional, not all that we provide to your country. And again, I think I want to be clear as I end. It is not sanctions that are contributing to the crisis that we are in right now. It’s an unprovoked war on the people of Ukraine that Russia started. And if they want to end it, they can end it by pulling out of Ukraine.

MODERATOR: Thank you so much for joining us this evening. Thank you, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield. (Applause.)

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Have a great evening.

AMBASSADOR BROWN: Thank you.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thanks to all of you.

You can also read in full remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a Media Availability in Accra, Ghana

MODERATOR: We’ll turn it over to Joy News for the first question, please. 

QUESTION: Hi, my name is Bernice Abu Baidoo from Joy News. Thanks for your presentation, but in there I heard a lot about what the American Government is doing to support us, but you didn’t mention the issues especially with governance and how you’re supporting especially agribusiness. What will your recommendations be in terms of doing homegrown policies to support agribusiness in Ghana? Because clearly the Ukraine war has taught us that the effect of aid is that when there’s struggle elsewhere, it will affect us. So homegrown policies? 

AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That is such an important question, and I think one of my recommendations and the recommendations that the U.S. Government strongly supports is to encourage governments to focus more capacity on building up the agribusiness sector, supporting farmers with extension services, encouraging young people like the young woman who asked the question today about how young farmers can be supported. 

As I noted in my speech today, Africa’s potential is unlimited. There is no reason for Africa to be dependent on wheat exports from across the world when your land resources are so abundant. So this is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to start to build those resources. It’s an opportunity to support those who are in the agribusiness sector. And it will require governments to make a concerted effort to put resources, to put policies in place that will encourage farmers to do the necessary that will feed the future of this continent.   

MODERATOR: Thank you. I’m going to ask guests to stand back. Can we please have the next question from AP? 

QUESTION: Yeah, my name is Francis Kokutse. The Secretary of State is in Southern Africa, later DRC (inaudible). Should we take this as an empire-building mission? 

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I’ve been in Africa since 1978, as you heard me say. I come to this continent on a regular basis. I engage with African leaders. I am regularly meeting with my counterparts in New York. And the United States is a long-term partner to countries on this continent. This is not about building an empire; it is about cementing long-term relationships, building and cementing partnerships that we’ve had on this continent for more than 60 years.   

MODERATOR: Okay, thank you.   

STAFF: I know you need sound quality, but I need you to move back. I need you to back up.   

MODERATOR:  Okay. I think we may have time for one more. Asaase, do you have a question? Okay.  

QUESTION:  My name is Nana Oye; I’m from Asaase Radio. You mentioned that Ghana has the potential to come on an agricultural path. What three key things do you think government can concentrate on or focus on to achieve that?  

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  I’m not an agricultural expert, but I know that policies that promote and support and encourage the private sector and particularly small farmers to engage in agriculture are really important. So it requires an enabling environment, one. It requires legislation that will provide both the resources and the policies that will encourage farmers to commit to farming. And then I think it requires a stable environment that will allow for the private sector, for private citizens to engage in this market.   

And again, as I said earlier, I think the potential is unlimited. Every single country on this continent has agricultural resources. Every single country on this continent has people resources. You have young people who are just champing at the bits to engage, and I think it’s going to require governments to make a commitment to these young people, make a commitment to building the agricultural base for this continent, and a commitment to ensure that you can feed your own people in the future.   

MODERATOR:  Okay, thank you so much.   

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  Thank you.   

MODERATOR:  Thanks for your time. 

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