U.S. special envoy for Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman traveling to Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea and Egypt as crises continue

U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman will travel to Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Sudan Tuesday through May 13. The recently appointed ambassador plans to meet with officials from those governments, as well as the United Nations and the African Union, in addition to political stakeholders and humanitarian groups.

The Special Envoy’s travel to the Horn of Africa is hoped to help de-escalate tensions and address humanitarian crises in order to promote stability across the region.

Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia during the Session "A Conversation with Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia" at the Annual Meeting 2019 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 23, 2019 
Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia during the Session “A Conversation with Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia” at the Annual Meeting 2019 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 23, 2019

One of the most pertinent topics of discussion will be addressing the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, which has been going on for six months now and has left at least 4.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

The United States has been vocal in pressing both Ethiopian and Eritrean leaderships to de-escalate the situation and work toward resolution. However, Eritrea has failed to honor the promise it made in March to end hostilities and withdraw troops from the region.

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at Asmara International Airport, July 9, 2018. Photo obtained from social media 
Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at Asmara International Airport, July 9, 2018. Photo obtained from social media

While resolving the Tigray crisis is immensely important, it is not the only issue facing the Horn of Africa and will surely not be the only topic of discussion during Feltman’s visit.

Tensions between the three neighboring countries of Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt continue to rise as there is mounting disagreement over Ethiopia’s construction of a dam on the Blue Nile River as well as water management and territorial disputes in the region.

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok (R) attends the opening session of the "Friends of Sudan" conference in the capital Khartoum on December 11, 2019, which aims to provide economic and political support for the transitional government in the country. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP) (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP via Getty Images) 
Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok (R) attends the opening session of the “Friends of Sudan” conference in the capital Khartoum on December 11, 2019, which aims to provide economic and political support for the transitional government in the country. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP) (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP via Getty Images)

The Horn of Africa has faced economic instability and food insecurity for some time now, but in many cases, these issues have been exacerbated by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic as well as recent natural factors such as droughts and locusts.

“The Special Envoy’s travel underscores the Administration’s commitment to lead a sustained diplomatic effort to address the interlinked political, security, and humanitarian crises in the Horn of Africa, and he will coordinate U.S. policy across the region to advance that goal,” said a Thursday statement from the U.S. State Department.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi sits with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, on April 20, 2016, at the outset of a bilateral meeting preceding an onward flight by the Secretary to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to accompany President Obama during a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council. [State Department photo/ 
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi sits with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, on April 20, 2016, at the outset of a bilateral meeting preceding an onward flight by the Secretary to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to accompany President Obama during a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council. [State Department photo/

The Horn of Africa has immense potential and has shown hope of social progress but finds itself struggling to overcome many obstacles such as human rights abuses, diplomatic tensions, and economic instability.

Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs at the time, briefs press at UN Headquarters in 2018. Photo taken by Loey Felipe 
Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs at the time, briefs press at UN Headquarters in 2018. Photo taken by Loey Felipe

The Special Envoy’s visit to the Horn is seen as not only a chance to address regional instability and humanitarian challenges, but also as an opportunity to promote democratic values across the region and establish the United States as a diplomatic force for good in Africa.

Noah Pitcher is a global politics correspondent for Today News Africa covering the U.S. government, United Nations, African Union, and other actors involved in international developments, political controversies, and humanitarian issues.

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