Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s Interview with Anne Soy of BBC

Ambassador Linda Thomas-GreenfieldU.S. Representative to the United NationsNairobi, KenyaJanuary 28, 2023


AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  From our standpoint, it is not a scramble for Africa. We have been on this continent for many decades. I’ve spent most of my career on this continent. I think we are making gains. There are extraordinary opportunities on the continent of Africa. There are extraordinary resources on this continent the most, I think the most important of those resources are the people resources. The median age is 19. There’s a huge youth bulge here that needs to be addressed. So, I do think we are making progress.

QUESTION: Just this year, we have had high level visits from Russia, from China. Is it possible for Africa to have you know parallel but positive relationships with global powers which have different values?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  We are not telling African countries who they should be friends with and who they how they should choose among their friends. We have a very positive people-oriented, values-oriented approach to our efforts on this continent and that’s our message to Africa.

QUESTION:  Burkina Faso has recently asked French forces to leave and there is talk that Wagner is likely to occupy that vacuum. Is the West losing ground on Africa?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  I would not say we’re losing ground in Africa. I think we have some challenges on this continent, including terrorism. And we don’t see the Wagner group as addressing those issues. As you know, we just designated it as an international criminal organization. The kinds of activities that they carried out in Mali, human rights violations including rapes of women, the kinds of attacks that they have carried out in Central Africa Republic, including targeting humanitarian workers, the UN – that is not an organization that would bring, in my view, any value to the fight that Africans are making against terrorism.

And again, if Burkina Faso makes that choice, it is not about us losing ground. It is about trying to make an effort and to wrap up our efforts to support the fight against terrorism, but Wagner is not the entity that countries should turn to for that.

QUESTION: I remember that last year when Mali asked French forces to leave, their allies including the Americans, also left. And that’s why I asked whether you can coexist with other groups you know, like Wagner…

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  No – we cannot coexist with Wagner; it is a criminal organization that commits human rights violations.

QUESTION: How does its expansion affect your relationship with countries that welcome them?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  We are working with countries who want to work with us, to help those countries address the issues that they’re facing. We’re working very closely with Niger, for example. We’re working closely with Kenya. We’re working closely with Somalia and will continue to support efforts to fight terrorism wherever we see it.

QUESTION: And let’s talk about South Africa, which is where the Russian Foreign Minister was recently, and they’re going to have naval exercises. How does that affect your relationship with South Africa?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  As you know, South Africa participated in our African Leaders summit and President Ramaphosa actually visited the United States prior to that, that time, and we have a good strong bilateral relationship with South Africa. You can ask South Africa and Russia about what their exercises were about. We as well have done exercises with the South Africans.