April 15, 2024

Vice President Kamala Harris and husband Douglas Emhoff traveling to Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia from March 25 to April 2

Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff make phone calls to military troops in Kuwait and San Diego to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving from the Vice President’s Residence, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff make phone calls to military troops in Kuwait and San Diego to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving from the Vice President’s Residence, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff will travel to Accra, Ghana; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and Lusaka, Zambia from March 25 to April 2, her Press Secretary Kirsten Allen announced on Monday.

Allen said that the Vice President’s visit will build on the recent U.S-Africa Leaders Summit that President Joseph R. Biden hosted in Washington in December 2022.

Allen wrote, “The trip will strengthen the United States’ partnerships throughout Africa and advance our shared efforts on security and economic prosperity. Throughout the trip, in partnership with African governments and the private sector, the Vice President will advance efforts to expand access to the digital economy, support climate adaptation and resilience, and strengthen business ties and investment, including through innovation, entrepreneurship, and the economic empowerment of women.

“The Vice President will meet with President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, President Samia Hassan of Tanzania, and President Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia to discuss regional and global priorities, including our shared commitment to democracy, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, food security, and the effects of Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine, among other issues.

“The Vice President will strengthen people-to-people ties and engage with civil society, including young leaders, business representatives, entrepreneurs, and members of the African Diaspora.”

Harris is not the only high profile government official traveling to Africa this month. The Department of State announced on Friday that United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will travel to Ethiopia and Niger March 14-17, 2023.

“On March 15, the Secretary will visit Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where he will discuss implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement to advance peace and promote transitional justice in northern Ethiopia. He will also meet humanitarian partners and civil society actors to discuss humanitarian assistance delivery, food security, and human rights,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken meets with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Washington, D.C. on December 13, 2022. [State Department photo by Freddie Everett
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken meets with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Washington, D.C. on December 13, 2022. [State Department photo by Freddie Everett

He added, “While there, the Secretary will also meet with African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat to discuss shared global and regional priorities and follow up on commitments from the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit regarding food security, climate and a just energy transition, the African diaspora, and global health. The Secretary will underscore U.S. support for African permanent representation in multilateral bodies.

“In the first ever visit to Niger by a U.S. Secretary of State, on March 16, Secretary Blinken will meet President Mohamed Bazoum and Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou in Niamey. He will discuss ways to advance the U.S.-Niger partnership on diplomacy, democracy, development, and defense. Secretary Blinken will also engage youths from Niger’s conflict zones, who have completed the Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration, and Reconciliation (DDRR) program, to learn about their contributions to peace in Niger. The Secretary will also further U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit collaboration related to global and regional peace, security, and governance, and the climate crisis.”

In response to Blinken’s announced trip to Ethiopia, Kate Hixon, Africa Advocacy Director at Amnesty International USA, said the visit should focus on the implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities.

She wrote in a brief statement sent to Today News Africa, “Secretary Blinken’s trip to Ethiopia comes at a critical time in the implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) and when the Ethiopian government is actively mobilizing support to terminate the mandate of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE). United States and international community engagement remains vital and it is positive to see the Secretary prioritizing Ethiopia.”

“That being said, Secretary Blinken’s trip will miss a crucial opportunity if he does not put human rights at the heart of his conversation with Prime Minister Abiy. The United States must make it clear that the Government of Ethiopia must provide access throughout the country to humanitarian actors and human rights monitors. While the humanitarian aspect has improved since the Cessation of Hostilities, access for human rights monitoring is still blocked. Furthermore, Secretary Blinken must put justice and accountability for crimes committed by all parties to the conflict at the center of his engagement with Prime Minister Abiy. Failure to do so will send a signal to perpetrators everywhere that the US will not stand up for justice. ”

Flavia Mwangovya, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for campaigns East Africa, Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes regions added: “Given the failure of the Government of Ethiopia to cooperate with the ICHREE, it is critical that Secretary Blinken make clear US support for the Commission and an expectation that the Government of Ethiopia allow them unfettered access to Tigray, Afar, Amhara, Oromia Regions and other areas. The United States should not let down victims of gross human rights abuses in Ethiopia, and Secretary Blinken should use this trip as a venue to call for independent investigation, prosecution and judicial process.”

The U.S. First Lady Jill Biden and other senior officials, including Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yallen, and the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield have recently made trips to Africa to strengthen ties, push against Russia and outcompete China.

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