Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield discusses her upcoming trip to Ghana and Uganda as well as U.S. efforts to address the global food security crisis. She then takes questions from participating journalists.
Moderator: Good afternoon to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Africa Regional Media Hub. I would like to welcome our participants from across the continent and thank all of you for taking part in this discussion. Today, we are very pleased to be joined by the U.S. Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield will discuss her upcoming trip to Ghana, Uganda, and Cape Verde, as well as U.S. efforts to address the global food security crisis. She joins us from Washington, D.C.
We will begin today’s call with opening remarks from Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, then we will turn to your questions. We will try to get to as many of them as we can during the time that we have.
As a reminder, today’s briefing is on the record, and with that, I will turn it over to Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: Thank you very much, and good morning, everyone, from Washington. Thank you for joining this call. I’m looking forward to, as you heard, leaving tomorrow for a four-day trip that will take me first to Uganda, then to Ghana and to Cape Verde.
My main goal is to listen, so that I can better understand the concerns of Ugandans, Ghanaians, and the people of Cabo Verde, and share those concerns back home. And I’m eager to discuss our mutual priorities – to continue a conversation that I’ve been having in New York on efforts to mitigate food insecurity, which is at the top of our agenda for this trip.
And while food insecurity is a global crisis, you all know that it has hit Africa particularly hard. High energy prices, climate change – including severe droughts and floods – COVID-19, and increasing conflict have all combined to push millions of people to the brink.
Putin’s illegal and immoral war of aggression in Ukraine has only added to this crisis – especially since some countries in Africa once got up to 75 percent of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine.
These factors have combined to lead to a five-alarm emergency – the worst food security crisis that I’ve seen in my entire career. And I’ve had a pretty long career. People are starving, through no fault of their own, forcing some to travel long distances in the hope of finding humanitarian aid somewhere. Food and oil prices are rising. Malnutrition rates are soaring. And children are dying. The desperate situation makes conflict and violence even more likely; it becomes a vicious cycle that we have to stop now before it gets out of hand.
The United States has been proud to step up and lead the world in responding to this crisis, including through our efforts at the UN, through the Roadmap for Global Food Security. But there’s still much more work to be done.
So during my trip, I’ll visit markets and food production facilities. I’ll meet with local farmers, activists, and members of civil society. And in Ghana, I will deliver a keynote address on peace and progress on food security.
Beyond that, my meetings with governments – including with President Museveni, President Akufo-Addo, Foreign Minister Botchwey, Prime Minister Correia e Silva, and other senior officials. I’ll also be focused on shared prosperity, good governance, human rights, refugee issues, conflict prevention, addressing corruption, and countering disinformation. And, of course, regional peace and security issues will be at the top of my agenda. But I will also raise the alarm on the damage being done to the international system and the UN Charter by the unprovoked war of aggression on Ukraine.
As you know, I have a deep history with Africa, having spent many years on the continent in different capacities, from a young student in the 1970s to serving as assistant secretary for Africa. I have seen the benefits of partnership between the United States and Africa – of working together to strengthen regional security, tackle refugee flows, defend human rights, and bolster economic growth and development.
Finally, I’ll note that this visit also comes as part of a series of high-level engagements that aim to affirm and strengthen our partnerships and relationships with African leaders and peoples.
As you know, Secretary Blinken will visit the continent next week – and we expect additional consultations with our African partners at the opening of the UN General Assembly in September. We will also lay the groundwork for a successful U.S.-Africa Summit in December.
This trip is an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to connect with partners and allies on all the issues I’ve laid out – and to hear firsthand from those who are dealing with food insecurity and other pressing challenges on the continent.
With that, I look forward to your questions. Thank you.
Moderator: Thank you, Ambassador. We will now begin the question and answer portion of today’s call. We ask that you limit yourself to one question related to the topic of today’s briefing: Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield’s upcoming trip to Uganda, Ghana, and Cape Verde, and U.S. efforts to address the global food security crisis.
Our first question was sent in advance by Mr. Mouctar Baldé of Guinéenews. He asks, “Why did you select Ghana and Uganda to visit this time, out of 54 countries? And besides food security, are you going to discuss the political and security situations in other countries such as Guinea, Mali, or Burkina Faso?”
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: Thank you for that question, and it’s an excellent question. And I will tell you this is not my first trip to the continent since I took on this role as the Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Last year I traveled with the Security Council to Mali and Niger, and then I went separately to Gabon. Gabon was moving into one of the A3 chairs in the Security Council.
Ghana is a member of the Security Council, too, one of the elected as well among the A3. So for that reason I wanted to have the opportunity to engage with my Ghanaian counterparts on our partnership and our relationship and on Ghana’s priorities at the Security Council. And I’d planned for some time a visit to Uganda to talk about the situation on the ground in terms of what is happening in the region, what is happening internally, and to engage with partners on the ground on the situation in Uganda.
Cape Verde is also an important partner, and as we will be going through Cape Verde I thought it would provide an opportunity for me to engage with partners on the ground there.
But this will be the first of – or the second of other opportunities to engage with African partners. I regularly engage in New York with the A3 as well as with the broader Africa Group, and this is part of that effort.
Moderator: Thank you. Our next question will go live to Ms. Hariana Veras of TPA in Angola. Operator, can you open Ms. Veras’ line, please? Ms. Veras, can you hear us?
Okay, then I think —
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: While we’re waiting for her, I did remember that another part of the first question was whether I would be addressing issues of security such as in Mali and other parts of Africa, and certainly that is on my agenda because a number of these countries, the situation is something that we engage in regularly at the Security Council. So particularly with the Ghanaian president, I will have discussions there.
Moderator: Okay, thank you.
Moderator: Oh, Hariana, there you are. Thank you.
Question: Thank you.
Moderator: Please go ahead with your question.
Question: Thank you very much for the opportunity and thank you, Ambassador, for doing this. My question is regarding your visit to Cape Verde. Can you give us a little more details which topics you will be discussing regarding USA-Cape Verdean relationship and with whom you will be meeting when you are there, and if soon there will be a visit to Angola as well? Thank you very much.
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: Yes. For Cape Verde, I will be meeting with the foreign minister and the prime minister, and we will discuss the full range of issues related to our partnership both bilaterally as well as multilaterally. Cape Verde has been an incredible partner for us. And also, part of my visit is to really highlight that partnership and thank the leaders of Cape Verde for that partnership and that friendship.
Moderator: Thank you. We have two questions which are similar. One is from Paul Owere from The Citizen newspaper in Tanzania; a similar question was asked by Julian Pecquet of The Africa Report. It says, “Recently, President Museveni said that he would not inherit enemies” – well, actually his quote was, “‘We don’t believe in making enemies of other people’s enemies’ in reference to Russia, and he wasn’t invited to last year’s Summit for Democracy. What is the status of U.S. relations with Kampala? Are aid cuts on the table if the two countries can’t see eye to eye on human rights and Russian influence?”
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: Look, the purpose of my visit is not to encourage countries to make enemies; it is to reaffirm our friendship with the people of Africa in all of these countries and to address the abiding concerns that they have about food insecurity and how we can support their efforts to deal with this very serious issue. So with President Museveni, again, we have a full agenda of issues to discuss how we can improve our partners, but also address some of our concerns about the situation on the ground both in the region and further afield.
Moderator: Thank you. We have a question sent in advance from Mr. Isaac Asare Owusu from Ghana Broadcasting Corporation. “The global food crisis, just like climate change, is a major concern that needs a holistic approach to deal with it. Is the United States Government working to leverage the potential of other great economies to help address the crisis, which is deepening the woes of most developing nations considering the economic effect of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?”
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: Thank you so much for that question, and that is truly an important question because this is not just about bringing food aid or food assistance to Africa. It’s about how we partner with African countries to address the long-term consequences of food insecurity, how we work with these countries to bring their own resources to the table.
Ghana, for example, has been a leader in food security. As the – as a Feed the Future partner for more than a decade, they have been joining initiatives and performing better than most of their peers on the continent in their agricultural sector. So we will be looking at how countries can bring their own resources, how Africa broadly can start to develop the capacity to address its food needs so that it is not dependent.
So what I’m looking to do on the continent of Africa is talk about solutions, to talk about how our relationships and our partnerships can help Africa get to better – a better place in feeding its own people, in addressing the crisis on the ground, and ensuring that prosperity is available to all the people across the continent of Africa.
Moderator: Thank you. Our next question, we’ll go live to Mr. Dalton Kaweesa from NBS TV, Uganda. Operator, can you open Mr. Kaweesa’s line, please?
Question: Yes, thank you very much. Ambassador, glad to hear from you. My name is Dalton Kaweesa from NBS Television. In your preamble, you stated that among the discussions you look in Uganda, it will also touch on internal matters that concern you. Previously we’ve had sanctions onto Ugandan officials for human rights abuses. Is it – has there been any impact or is that something that you’re going to put across on the table when you meet President Museveni? Thank you, Your Excellency.
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: Good. Thank you so much for that question. And let me just start by saying that the United States has always been committed to supporting democracy, and so that is – we believe that democracy is the best path forward to address the needs of the people. And in regard to our sanctions and some of the visa restrictions that we have imposed on individuals, I would direct you to the Department of Defense and the Africa Bureau on how impactful those sanctions have been. But again, these are issues that have been part of our ongoing concerns in Uganda, but again, issues that we will discuss bilaterally.
Moderator: We’ll turn back quickly to a question – two questions that are similar that were sent in in advance. One is from Carien du Plessis from Business Day, South Africa, and another is from Ms. Amarachi Ubani from Channels TV, Nigeria. “There are fears in South Africa and other countries that Western sanctions against Russian companies would extend to those who do business with such companies. What are the chances?”
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: I’m sorry, I didn’t hear the question at the beginning.
Moderator: It’s basically asking will the United States sanction African countries who choose to continue to engage with Russia.
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: Look, our sanctions on Russia are intended to discourage the Russians from continuing its aggression in Ukraine, and how those sanctions impact the relationships that other countries have with Russia, I would direct you to our Department of Treasury. But I do – I would caution that countries should not engage with countries that have been sanctioned by the United States. And again, the impact that those relationships will have can be addressed by our Department of Treasury.
Moderator: Next will be a live question from Pamela Falk from CBS News. Operator, open the line, please.
Question: Hi, can you hear me?
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: I can hear you, Pamela.
Question: Hi, Ambassador. Here at UN Headquarters, we miss you. My question is about the Uganda leg of the trip. The – you’ve talked about this a few times in the last few minutes, but the Ugandan president told Sergey Lavrov that his big problem is that the U.S. wants African nations, including Uganda, to be anti-Russia, and he said if Russia makes mistakes then we’ll tell them, if – and that he is not critical of the war in Ukraine.
What is your sense? Could you give a big-picture sense of the sort of dance around Africa that Russia and U.S. – not just you, but other administration officials – are doing? Number one, what do you see, what does the U.S. see in it in terms of the big picture? I know what you’re going to do to help, but why are major powers now doing fairly high-level meetings in Africa and in Uganda and Ghana in particular? And what do you make of the timing of the Russian trip? Thanks so much.
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: There’s a lot in there, Pam. Let me just attempt to broadly address that. We have had a decades-long relationship with the continent of Africa. And as I mentioned in my statement, I first came to Africa in the 1970s. This is not a new relationship for us. In terms of Uganda, we’re approaching the 60th anniversary of our relationship, and we’re proud to continue to work with the Ugandans to help build a more peaceful and a more prosperous and a healthy and democratic future.
And so our vision of our relationship with the continent of Africa is one of partnership. It is one of relationships. It is about us working with African countries to address their problems moving forward. We’re not asking Africans to make any choices between the United States and Russia – for me, that choice would be simple – to look at the long, abiding relationship that we’ve had with the continent, the U.S. investments on the continent of Africa, and for African countries not to buy into Russia’s disinformation and misinformation campaign to indicate that somehow this is a war between the United States and Russia.
Let’s be clear. Russia attacked Ukraine. Russia started this war. Everything that we’re going through right now related to Ukraine came about because of Russia’s decision to attack its neighbors and to really kick the UN Charter in its back.
So that’s what this is about, and this is what Africans understand that it’s about. So I’m here not to counter anything that the Russian foreign minister did during his visit. I am here to listen to Africans, to share with them what we can do together to help them address a global problem that they’re feeling the impact of every single day.
Moderator: Thank you very much. And unfortunately, the Ambassador must run to another event. So I’m sorry, that’s all we have time for.
Ambassador, do you have any time for just a quick final remark?
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: Nothing in particular other than to say that I’m looking forward to the trip. I’m looking forward to engaging with Ugandans and Ghanaians and Cape Verdeans across the board, and my goal is partnership. My goal is friendship. My goal is not about enemies; it’s about working as friends together to address the challenges of today and tomorrow.
Moderator: Thank you very much. We appreciate your time. And with that, that concludes our briefing. I would like to thank Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Representative to the United Nations, for speaking to us today, and thank all of our journalists for participating. If you have any questions about today’s briefing, you may contact the Africa Regional Media Hub at AFMediaHub@state.gov. Thank you.
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield: Thank you.