Ambassador Linda Thomas-GreenfieldU.S. Representative to the United Nations New York, New York August 10, 2023
QUESTION: Welcome back to the Madison Show. Good morning, how are you?
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good morning, how are you? I’m so delighted to be on again.
QUESTION: I appreciate it. Let me just go down this list of things. I’ll start with the – First of all, congratulations on your – is it an election? An appointment?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: No, it’s a rotation. It’s a rotation.
QUESTION Oh, okay.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: There are 15 members. This is our turn. It’s alphabetical.
QUESTION: Thank you. Well anyway. Congratulations.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you.
QUESTION: And what then is your responsibility, Ambassador, as the president?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, as the president of the Security Council, we get to – we get to set the agenda for the month. We get to highlight priorities that we have. So, for example, during this month I’m highlighting food insecurity, the use of food as weapon of war, I’m highlighting human rights as we lead up to the 75th anniversary of the Human Rights Declaration in December.
QUESTION Speaking of food insecurity as a weapon of war, what is going on – and you probably know, Darfur was a – an issue that I was personally involved with – what’s going on? How did this explode again? What happened in Sudan and particularly in the Darfur region? And how serious is this issue that really should be getting more attention?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yeah, Joe, thank you for raising that question. And I know you have experience there. And I have experience there in a previous job. The situation is pretty dire. So yesterday I hosted – I presided over – a Security Council meeting to highlight, amplify, and publicize the current situation in Sudan, and I particularly focused on the situation in Darfur, where we are seeing atrocities being committed that really take us back to 2004 when you were there before. We had a briefing by the UN and by other organizations that indicate that the situation has led to almost a million people crossing the border into neighboring countries, and particularly into Chad. Women who are crossing the border have been raped. They are coming in very, very difficult conditions. And the war is continuing there. One of the briefers said that we are not amplifying this enough in the international press. So, I was happy that we were able to give a platform in the Security Council so that the press would pay more attention to this. And I appreciate you raising it on your call so that your listeners can hear and have a sense of the urgency of what is happening there. There is a war going on in Sudan between two generals who are fighting for power.
QUESTION: And, so what – will the Security Council have to issue a resolution and then the resolution has to go to the entire United Nations? And forgive me if I sound naïve, and that is – would the United Nations have to send in blue caps, blue helmets, I mean, send in a force to break this up?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I wish it were that simple. It is not. We can’t just send in a force. I wish we could, to protect the innocent people who are being terrorized by this situation. So, in the Council, what we’re doing right now, as I mentioned nobody was talking about this, it wasn’t in the press –
QUESTION: Right, right.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: So, we were able to bring it forward. And I briefed the press after the meeting, so that people have a sense of what is happening on the ground there. And Security Council members have a sense of what is happening on the ground – a sense of urgency that we have to find a path to end this conflict. The Sudanese permanent representative, their ambassador – my counterpart – was there speaking on behalf of the government, defending the situation on the ground. But he was able to hear from all 15 members of the Security Council that they have to bring this thing to an end. They have to stop the atrocities. They have to allow humanitarian assistance to get to people who are in need. And that’s what we’re working on right now. The U.S. is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance, but we can’t get assistance in if the security forces are not allowing that to be distributed to people.
QUESTION: Absolutely, and they will – I’ve seen – I remember that – where – folks will just take the food. They’ll take the food, won’t they? And it just doesn’t get to the people who need it.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: And we have seen that already. We have had humanitarian workers killed in Sudan. We have had warehouses raided that has food and provisions for civilian populations. And that has to stop. People have to be held accountable. They have to be held accountable for the atrocities that are being committed. And as I noted in my statement yesterday, we are beginning to hear noises about genocide in Darfur. Again. Again. And that just should not be where we are today.
QUESTION: Oh, I remember my – a very serious conversation I had with then Colin Powell when South Sudan became a country. I was there with the flag raising. And he wanted to remind me – to remind the audience – he was one of the first to declare genocide that was happening. But you just can’t declare it. Am I right, Ambassador? You just can’t declare –
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s exactly what I said yesterday. It’s not enough to talk about it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You have to do something about it. And you have to hold people accountable so they understand that they cannot get away with committing the kinds of atrocities, the ethnic – almost ethnic cleansing that we see happening in parts of Darfur right now.
QUESTION: Now, here’s the other thing that might confuse people. What side – does the people are saying – Who’s to blame? Is it one side or the other? Or are both sides to blame here?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, there are no good guys in this thing. There are two military generals fighting each other. One is representing the government of Sudan, but the other one was also part of the government as well. They were a separate force. So, in my estimation, you have two generals who are fighting for power. They have left out the civilians. There were negotiations taking place just as this occurred that would have brought Sudan back into the control of a civilian government. And that is what we need to see happen. We need to democracy return. We need to see the civilians who were, really, on the front lines of fighting to get rid of the previous authoritarian government. We need to see those civilians brought back into the seats of power. So, there are no good guys here.
QUESTION: Alright. Now, can I go to a news story that broke last night and that is in Haiti?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yes.
QUESTION: And we have a lot of calls about this. Where again, gangs – for the lack of a better word – you know, are out kidnapping people. I saw a nurse, her daughter gets kidnapped by a gang. And this is interesting. I don’t know if I was right or not in bringing this up. But Kenya stepped up. And I know that the folks in Haiti – the leaders in Haiti said “Look, somebody’s got to help us here.” And not with military force, but basically, you know, I guess police type action training. I got to tell you. Why didn’t the United States – and I brought up the Monroe Doctrine – now maybe, you know, I brought up something that’s antiquated. But why didn’t the United States step up first? Since this is –
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We – We have been –
QUESTION: – in our hemisphere? Yeah.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Joe, we have been engaged in Haiti and supportive of Haiti throughout. But Haiti – our history, as well as the UN’s history in providing security forces in Haiti, has not always been one that has worked. So, what the Haitians asked for was a multi-national force that was not a UN force. But one that is supported by the United Nations. And so, we have worked with a number of countries to come up with a country that would lead on this. And I have to thank Kenya for stepping up to the plate on this. So, we’re working closely with the Kenyans as they prepare to put this force together and address the requirements of the Haitian people and the Haitian government. What is happening in Haiti is really horrific. It is unacceptable that people are being held hostage by these gangs in their communities. They’re not being allowed to go work. They’re not being allowed to just live their lives. Women are being raped there. And so, we’re working with Kenya – the U.S. government directly working with Kenya – but also, we’re working in the Security Council to come up with a resolution that gives Kenya what it requires and provides Haiti what it requires so this multinational force can go in and bring security to the people of Haiti.
QUESTION: Now, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, you have to have a unanimous votes on that. Correct?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That is correct.
QUESTION: Okay. Alright, as I remember. Okay. So, it has to be unanimous.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have to have all 15 countries – all 15 countries in the Council support this. But I will say we had a resolution on Haiti extending the mandate of the current UN operations in Haiti and we got unanimous support for that.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: And we will be working with all Council members to ensure that this time around we get unanimous support. There is strong support for Haiti in the Council. So, I’m confident that we will be able to get support for this resolution.
QUESTION: With me is Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield. And I got to tell you the one thing I so appreciate – these are complicated international issues. And I say this with all due – with respect. You are so clear that it is good for people to be able to understand just how complicated this issue is. Which leads me to ask about what’s going on in Africa – in terms of Niger. I’ve been following that. Niger? I’ve been following that. And what – again, how come these countries are so important to one, let’s say first, the United States, and let’s just say global interests?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yeah, they are. And what we are seeing happen now is really sad. We have experienced a coup in Guinea, Burkina Faso, in Mali, and now this attempt in Niger to overthrow a democratically elected president. And so, we are very strongly behind the efforts of the regional governments and the regional organization ECOWAS to find a way forward, a way out of this, to get President Bazoum released from his house arrest. I saw a report last night indicating that he has run out of food –
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: – and he is living in really unacceptable conditions. We have engaged – as you know, our Deputy Secretary – our acting Deputy-Secretary was in Niger last week pushing for his release and pushing these military forces to stand down. And again, we’re supporting the efforts of ECOWAS. They’re meeting today. And hopefully out of that meeting we will hear something positive about what they plan to do.
QUESTION: Now, you are not – I don’t know if you’re in a position, but how do you get them to stand down? Is there a – is there a quid pro – to use a phrase I hesitate to use – is there a quid pro quo somewhere? How do you get military forces to stand down? What do you have to offer them? What do you have to do?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, that’s a complicated question and I don’t know that I have the answer to the question. I think it’s a combination of carrots and sticks. In terms of what they need to know is all of the support that we provided directly to the government, we have temporarily suspended. We are still providing direct humanitarian support to the people of Niger. But if they continue, the support and training and other work that we’ve done that we’ve done directly with the government will be indefinitely suspended.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: And we want to make sure they understand that there’s accountability for these kinds of actions. Overthrowing a democratically elected government is just not accepted. It is not accepted anywhere in the world. And this is the point that ECOWAS has made very consistently since the day this action started.
QUESTION: I hope we can invite you back. And thank you for taking so much time to be with us. The final question that I do have is: What should my audience be doing? Because I always ask the question: What are you going to do about it? What should this audience be doing?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you so much for asking me that question and giving me a platform to speak to your audience. Advocacy is what we want. We want people to be aware, to know what is happening in the world, to raise their concerns, to talk about what is happening. And not ignore what is happening. And just reach out to people. There are probably Nigerians who are on this call who are in people’s communities and reach out to them. Reach out to your Haitian neighbors. And let them know that you care. Reach out to your members of Congress. There is a very well-organized, powerful Haitian coalition of members of Congress who I meet with on a regular basis. They need to hear from their constituents what they care about. So I know that these members of Congress are hearing from their constituents about Haiti. Have them hear from you about what is happening on the continent of Africa. What is happening in Ukraine – this unprovoked war by Russia on a neighbor. This is impacting the entire world. This is not a European problem. It is not a Ukraine problem. Ukraine is on the front lines fighting for democracy and we need to support the efforts of the administration to address this issue. And talk to your members of Congress about what is happening.
QUESTION: And of course, I go back to where we started. I was floored when you said a million people are crossing the border, fleeing this conflict. And women are being raped and murdered. And – It’s like, it’s starting all over again.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It’s starting all over again.
QUESTION: And we didn’t, you know –
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: And that’s just people crossing the border, Joe.
QUESTION: Border, right.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: There are many millions who have been forced out their homes but are still in Sudan.
QUESTION: Wow. And, you know, I think of what George Clooney and others did, organizations that I worked with – we had to bring it to the people’s attention. Do you remember the signs, you know, about Darfur?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yeah.
QUESTION: [inaudible]. You know, fronts of churches. That’s the advocacy role we have to play. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, thank you so much, and I hope we can call on you again.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you Joe. It was great being on your show and I look forward to coming back any time.
QUESTION: Alright, thank you very much.