Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Molly Phee On the Secretary’s Upcoming Travel to Ethiopia and Niger

MR TEK: Hi, good morning everybody. Welcome to today’s call previewing Secretary Blinken’s travel to Niger and Ethiopia. Just as a reminder, today’s call is on the record and embargoed until its conclusion. And joining us today is Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee. I’ll now turn the floor over to Assistant Secretary Phee for opening remarks, and then we’re happy to take a few of your questions. AS Phee, over to you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE: Thanks, Nate, very much, and hello and good morning or good afternoon depending on where you’re calling from. We’re really excited about this trip. It’s a piece of the partnership scene that we so successfully highlighted in December when President Biden and his cabinet hosted the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. You’ll be seeing this as the year of travel of U.S. officials to Africa. We’ve already seen the First Lady and the Treasury Secretary as well as Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield on the continent, and I expect to see many more leaders of the administration visiting to deepen and expand our partnerships, and that’s what the Secretary’s trip is designed to do as well.

In Ethiopia, the Secretary has been devoted since he assumed office to finding a way to restore peace and stability. You know the United States played a critical role in facilitating the engagement last fall by Kenya, South Africa, and the AU to help the parties reach an end to the fighting – the cessation of hostilities signed in Pretoria on November 2nd of last year. So this visit will be part of our ongoing and dynamic engagement with the Ethiopians to help consolidate that peace.

He will also have the chance to meet AU Chairperson Moussa Faki, again, to follow up on a lot of the discussions that took place last December. And we particularly want to continue the dialogue on how to raise the African voice in international institutions, whether that’s at the Security Council, at the G20, or reforming the MDBs dialogue that Secretary Yellen has taken point on for the administration.

We’re also thrilled that Secretary Blinken will be the first American secretary of state to visit Niger. As you all know, Niger is an important partner. We admire greatly their devotion to democracy, to skillful management of the difficult terrorist environment in the Sahel, and we’re looking forward to discussions with those leaders and as well as with some folks who’ve gone through their really remarkable DDR program.

So let me stop there, Nate, and open up for questions. But I think it’ll be a great trip addressing important themes and findings ways to, again, deepen and expand our engagement with our African partners.

MR TEK: Fantastic. Hey, Brian (ph), could you just please repeat the instructions for posing a questions?

OPERATOR: Of course. And ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to ask a question, please press 1 then 0 on your telephone keypad. You may withdraw your question at any time by repeating the 1 then 0 command. Once again, if you have a question, please press 1 then 0 at this time.

MR TEK: Great, thanks so much. Could we please go to the line of Shaun Tandon from the AFP?

QUESTION: Thanks for doing this call. I wanted to ask you a little bit about the Ethiopia stuff. I asked a similar question to the Secretary after the U.S.-Africa summit. But the relationship with Ethiopia – I mean, do you find that it’s back to normal in a sense, I mean after the Pretoria agreement? How normal do you think relations are right now with Prime Minister Abiy? And as part of that, the AGOA agreement – is that going to be something that’s going to be discussed or some type of trade relationship? And a bit broadly, I guess, are there incentives that you’re going to offer for Ethiopia to move forward with the Pretoria agreement? Thanks.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE: Thanks. I’m not sure I would use the phrase back to normal. The conflict that Ethiopia just endured was earthshattering, right. It involved terrible atrocities by all parties and was extremely disruptive to the country’s stability and to its economy, which is also facing historic drought conditions.

So what we’re looking to do is refashion our engagement with Ethiopia. You know historically we’ve had a strong partnership with Ethiopia. They’ve played an important role in development of their own citizens as well as engaged responsibly by and large in the region, and we would like to be able to have a partnership that’s commensurate with their size and influence and with our interests and commitment to Africa.

But to put that relationship in a forward trajectory, we will continue to need steps by Ethiopia to help break the cycle of ethnic political violence that has set the country back for so many decades, including most acutely in this recent conflict.

So I anticipate there will – again, as you know, Prime Minister Abiy was – and his team were here for the Africa Leaders Summit, where he had good conversations both with Secretary Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. The Secretary is in frequent contact, as are other officials in the administration, with the Ethiopians.

So I view this visit as an opportunity, again, to recognize the leadership shown by everyone involved in ending the fighting and in implementing the cessation of hostilities agreement and to talk about the U.S. role in fostering a positive new trajectory for the country.

MR TEK: Thanks so much. Could we please go to John Hudson from The Washington Post?

QUESTION: Appreciate this. I just wanted to ask: Is Secretary Blinken going – during his stop in Niger, is he going to visit Air Base 201, which obviously has U.S. personnel who work there and also has the MQ-9 Reaper drone?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE: That’s not my expectation, but I wouldn’t – I’m not in a position on this kind of call to discuss U.S. military operations in Niger.

MR TEK: Thanks so much. Could we go to Jennifer Hansler from CNN?

QUESTION: Thanks for doing this. Will Secretary Blinken meet with Prime Minister Abiy while he is in Addis, and does he intend to meet with any Tigrayan officials while he is in Ethiopia? And is there any chance he goes to Mek’ele as well? Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE: Hi. Yeah, absolutely I expect he’ll meet the leadership of both the Ethiopian Government and the Tigrayans. I do not expect a stop in Mek’ele, though.

MR TEK: Thank you. Can we go to Pearl Matibe?

QUESTION: Thank you so much, Assistant Secretary Molly Phee, for doing this today. My question is: Could you please just speak to why specifically is Secretary Blinken the one to be going to Niger and to Ethiopia himself as opposed to sending somebody else from State, for example? And who else is going to be in this delegation? Will Ambassador Carson be in his delegation? Could you speak to who will be accompanying him? And the security piece in Niger is really important; maybe if you could add anything extra on that, I’d appreciate it.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE: Thanks, Pearl. You may be aware that Ambassador Carson joined me recently to a visit to the African Union summit. We were also joined by Dr. John Nkengasong, who leads health security for the State Department, and a team both from State and USAID that deals with food security. And we had conversations with our African partners, including Ethiopia, about those issues. So I’m a little bit perplexed by a question about why the Secretary of State would travel. That’s what he does. And so we’re excited for him to have the opportunity to visit both countries and see for himself the conditions on the ground, including in Niger.

Niger is one of our most important partners on the continent in terms of security cooperation. They deal with a very difficult threat from JNIM and from ISIS-WA, and they are an important leader in the region showing that democracy and having an inclusive political system is an important way forward in confronting that kind of terrorism challenge.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you so much. I just wanted to clarify the —

MR TEK: Sorry, we – unfortunately, we have to move on to another questioner, but we’ll be sure to keep in touch with you, Pearl. Can we please go to the line of Daphne from – Psaledakis from Reuters?

QUESTION: Hi, thank you so much for doing this. Humanitarians and diplomats say that Eritrean troops remain in several border areas while militia from Amhara still occupy large swaths of territory in contested areas of western and southern Tigray. What information do you have about the status of Eritrean troops and Amhara militia present, and how does Blinken plan to address this during his visit? Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY PHEE: Thanks very much. First of all, this has been an issue that the Secretary has raised repeatedly in prior engagements with the Ethiopian Government. Our understanding, which has been verified by the African Union Monitoring and Verification Mechanism that was established by the cessation of hostilities agreement is that fighting has ceased in northern Tigray and that by and large Eritrean troops have withdrawn from the area. So we continue to discuss that matter, but that’s our understanding.

We also have seen an important resumption of humanitarian assistance into the north to all the conflict-affected communities and the resumption of services in Tigray which were so devastatingly suspended for so long.

MR TEK: Great, thanks so much. Unfortunately, that’s all the time we have for this call, but I want to thank the assistant secretary again for joining us. And that concludes today’s call. As a reminder, today’s call was on background and the embargo has now been lifted. Oh sorry – oh, I’m sorry, apologies. On the record. The call was on the record. And I want to thank everyone for joining us. The embargo is now lifted. Thanks so much. Take care, everybody.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Secretary Blinken’s Travel to Ethiopia and Niger

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.

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.

Source: U.S. Department of State

Ethiopia: Drought Situation Update #1 – As of 10 March 2023


Ethiopia’s drought situation continues to worsen following five consecutive failed rainy seasons and the looming “lean season” (period between harvests), with the southern and eastern parts of the country mainly affected. Rains have been erratic and scarce, in turn significantly diminishing the crops produced by farmers and severely affecting the pastoralists who had barely had the time to recover from the last heavy drought of 2016-2017 and the subsequent locust infestation. Entire communities are without sufficient food reserves to survive until the next harvest in the next few months. Pastures and water availability are depleted in southern and eastern zones of the country further endangering already depleted livelihoods.

Drought induced humanitarian conditions – a snapshot

24 million people currently living in drought affected areas

11 million people estimated to be food insecure

About 6.85 million livestock deaths since late 2021

Dire and complex conditions are expected to further drive humanitarian needs of the drought affected population well into 2023, thus requiring urgent funding and a strengthened response. In 2023, Humanitarian organizations aim to assist more than 13 million Ethiopians in drought affected areas with life-saving assistance, including food, nutrition, health, and protection services this year. For this to happen, the 2023 Ethiopian Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) requires an estimated $US2.05 billion for the drought response out of a total ask of $US 3.99. Donors must mobilize and commit urgently as the time is now, if not overdue, for humanitarian actors to scale up their response to save lives.

Last year, an estimated $US928 million was secured out of the $US1.66 billion required for the drought response as of end December 2022, inclusive of funding from OCHA pooled fund mechanisms namely, the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and the Ethiopia Humanitarian Fund (EHF). Urgent additional funding is needed to scale up the response by humanitarian partners to support most vulnerable populations across the highly drought affected areas in the eastern and southern parts of the country, with five out of nine clusters having assisted only 50 or less per cent of the people targeted due to insufficient resources and access challenges in some areas in 2022.

Response to the affected people in drought impacted Somali, Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ (SNNP) regions was inadequate in 2022. During the time, partners assisted an estimated 11 million people or 66 per cent of the 17 million targeted population with at least one type of life-saving assistance. Remaining 6 million people or 44 per cent of the target were not provided with at least one type of humanitarian assistance in 2022, due to different operational challenges including low financing, access to hard-to-reach areas, limited partner presence, as well as growing needs created from continued displacements and worsening drought conditions. Particularly, 21 per cent of the targeted people in need having not been provided with emergency shelter and non-food item assistance, 50 per cent of target not having received food at least one time, 22 per cent not having received nutrition supplements, 52 per cent remained without agricultural support, as well as 50 percent without water, sanitation and hygiene services.

Owing to a focus on life-saving assistance for the most vulnerable, and due to challenges facing humanitarian organizations, including security, limited capacity and insufficient financial resources, in Somali, 32 per cent of the targeted 5.4 million drought affected people had not received humanitarian assistance by December. In the same period, 34 per cent (out of 6 million targeted) in Oromia, and 38 per cent of the targeted 2.1 million in SNNP did not receive humanitarian assistance.

Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

China Opens New Visa Application Center in Ethiopia

The Chinese Embassy in Ethiopia has announced a new visa application center that caters more visa requests effective the 20th of March, 2023.

China’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, Zhao Zhiyuan, and Director for China at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Samuel Fitsum-Birhan, and other invited guests were present at the announcement ceremony today.

The new visa center at the Dream Tower in Kolfe-Keraniyo Sub City will start trial operation from March 13 to 17, 2023 and officially operate on March 20, it was learned.

The new center is responsible for handling consular document applications, including applications for ordinary Chinese visas, China Hong Kong visas, China Macau visas, and consular authentication as well as collecting governmental fees for the above-mentioned certificates.

Speaking on the occasion, Ambassador Zhiyuan said as China has downgraded the management of COVID-19 from Class A to Class B and adjusted its policy against the pandemic, economic cooperation, trade, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges are increasing.

The flow of people between the two countries is therefore rising, he said, adding that more and more Ethiopian friends want to go to China.

The Chinese visa center is opened to cater to the needs of the surging demand for many Ethiopian friends, he stated.

The modern facility is expected to serve as a bridge of China-Ethiopia friendship to facilitate the exchanges and communication between the countries.

Samuel Fitsum-Birhan, Director for China, said Ethiopia and China are countries that have a strong friendship that spans several decades.

He further stated that by increasing the people-to-people relationship, the visa application center will play a significant role in strengthening the diplomatic cooperation between the governments of the two countries.

The direct flight of Ethiopian Airlines to various cities in China is enabling to strengthen economic and diplomatic cooperation with other African countries in addition to Ethiopia.

Source: Ethiopia News agency

Israel Supports Conversion of Ethiopian Airlines Second Passenger Aircraft Conversion to Cargo

The ambassador of Israel to Ethiopia, Aleligne Admasu and Ethiopian Airlines high officials have discussed to enhance the conversion of Ethiopian passenger into cargo.

During the occasion, Ambassador Aleligne Admasu said that in the future, the two nations plan to teach and train Ethiopian students, engineers and technicians by opening a center in Ethiopia and giving services to the rest of Africa.

Israeli Aerospace industry and Ethiopian Airlines have recently cooperated on the conversion of Ethiopian second passenger aircraft to cargo.

The Ethiopian Airlines CEO, Mesfin Tasew noted that the conversion process has been delayed due to lack of spare parts.

He also said, “The second passenger aircraft conversion will be finalized in the coming month and soon the third conversion will start”

The Israeli Aerospace representative expressed willingness to expand the conversion of passenger into cargo in collaboration with Israel, U.S.A, and Ethiopia.

Source: Ethiopia News agency

Nat’l Rehabilitation Program Offers Great Contribution To Former Combatants Through Engaging in Dev’t Activities: TPLF Official

The national rehabilitation program will play great role in allowing former combatants to participate in development activities after disarmament, Getachew Reda, Senior official of TPLF, said.

Following the signing of a peace agreement between the federal government and the TPLF, disarmament is the first step for former TPLF fighters to reintegrate into the society.

He also pointed out that not only disarmament but rehabilitation works should be implemented in a coordinated manner.

Noting that the rehabilitation program plays key role to the national development, Getachew emphasized the importance of strengthening the country’s interest by implementing the program effectively.

He also urged pertinent bodies to exert efforts with strong commitment and maintain the implementation of ongoing peace process.

Source: Ethiopia News agency

Japan’s Ambassador Lauds Progress of Women Leadership in Ethiopia

Japan’s Ambassador to Ethiopia Ito Takako has praised the progress of women leadership in Ethiopia in various sectors as joining hands and encouraging women in leadership positions is pivotal to create a better world.

The Embassy of Japan has organized a panel discussion on challenges and prospects for women on the occasion of international Women’s Day on Thursday.

Addressing the occasion, Ambassador Takako said “for our better world, it is important to join our hands and encourage women to be in leadership positions in the political, economic, and social among others.”

Because, Takako added once you are in that leadership position, you will see a new and different perspective and you can make a change.

“When women shine, all society shines.” For the Japanese government, gender equality and women empowerment has been of the priorities.

Praising Ethiopia for women empowerment, she said the country has been advancing in terms of social progress which is also evidence by a high number of women as ministers, state ministers as well as a large number of female parliament members.

The ambassador believes that empowering women as leaders in many sectors will help and open a new path to proceed.

March 8 is International Women’s Day. Women across the world use this day to come together to celebrate and rally for equal treatment and representation.

Source: Ethiopia News agency