Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s Interview with Sherwin Bryce-Pease of SABC 

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 1, 2023


QUESTION: Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, welcome back to SABC News.


QUESTION: A high-level pledging event last week for the Horn of Africa – specifically Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya – failed to reach the over $7 billion required to meet humanitarian needs in that region, devastated, of course, by droughts, famine, and conflict affecting some 43 million people in need. While the United States is the largest donor, we simply haven’t seen the required burden sharing expected from the international community. How do you make that case?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, we are making the case, and I will say that I was disappointed that we didn’t reach our goal. But I think we accomplished something equally important and that was raising the profile of the situation on the ground. And my hope is that over the course of the next few weeks, countries will consider their contributions to this effort, and we’ll see more come forward. But the message is clear: we have a situation where people are dying of hunger, and there’s no reason for that to happen. We have to end famine; we need to end it now. The U.S. has played a very large role in helping Somalia avert a famine last year, but people are still dying. And that should be enough to get countries who are not contributing to this effort to contribute, those who are making contributions to give more, and I look forward to continuing to engage on this.

QUESTION: You’re seeking to make a case, essentially, in a world that is very distracted with a number of humanitarian crises around the world. That is a complicated message to convey, not so?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It is complicated, but it is important. And we can’t – there’s a saying in the U.S.: we can chew gum and walk at the same time. We can’t just concentrate on one crisis at a time. We have to be able to concentrate on the world. And that is what we’re trying to do.

QUESTION: It’s a saying we use in South Africa, as well. The United States, along with Saudi Arabia, and working through the trilateral mechanism of the UN, AU, and IGAD, have been front and center in trying to bring about a permanent ceasefire in Sudan. We see the talks in Jeddah between the warring parties falling apart today with both sides accusing the other of violating the temporary ceasefire. What pressure, Ambassador, can the United States and others exert given how difficult it has been to bring these two warring parties to heel?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have to keep the pressure on. We have to intensify the pressure on them and make sure that they understand there will be accountability for their actions. People are dying. People are afraid. We’ve seen thousands – tens of thousands – of Sudanese vote with their feet, because these two generals are fighting for power. We have to bring the civilians in – the civilians who have been key to bringing about change to see this situation move forward in the interest of all people in Sudan. And so I commend the efforts that we made with Saudi Arabia and Jeddah, commend the AU and IGAD’s efforts, but the pressure has to be intensified.

QUESTION: What does accountability look like?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I think that is something to be defined in the future, but at this point, we need to stop them from – stop the killing. We’re certainly looking at making sure we keep account of what they are doing.

QUESTION: I want to talk a bit about Uganda, to the south of Sudan, where the Anti-Homosexuality Act is now the law of the land, and what the UN’s Human Rights Office has described as draconian and discriminatory, what UN agencies have warned will erode the gains on the HIV/AIDS response in that country. The United States has called for the law’s immediate repeal, while President Biden has instructed the White House National Security Council to evaluate the implications of the law. You sit on that council, Ambassador. What does that evaluation look like?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: First and foremost, we are extraordinarily disappointed. This action does not represent what we would expect, even from Uganda, and the President’s statement was clear on that. We will be looking at what we are doing in Uganda, but we want to make sure that we continue to support the LGBT community, support the humanitarian needs of ordinary Ugandans, and they not be victimized twice by this.

QUESTION: How do you circumvent that law though? You say you want to support this community, but there’s a law in place that discriminates against them?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  There is a law in place that discriminates against them, and what needs to happen is that law needs to be repealed. And we have made that clear in all of our contacts. It was clear in the President’s message, that the ultimate goal is for Uganda to do the right thing and that is repeal that draconian law, but in the meantime, we will look at – as the President has indicated – do an analysis and assessment of our relationships and see where we need to make changes.

QUESTION: That generally means sanctions, Ambassador. Is this about inclusion in AGOA? Is this about, you know, is PEPFAR continuing in Uganda?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, I think all of those things are under discussion, but we are not going to do anything that will punish those people who are being affected by this law.

QUESTION: I want to touch on South Africa before we close. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is arriving in South Africa today to attend a BRICS Foreign Ministers Meeting ahead of the Heads of State Summit in August. And you’ll be aware, Ambassador, of the controversy that surrounds the possibility of the ICC-indicted President of the Russian Federation attending that summit. Does the United States believe that South Africa’s close relationship with Russia, including controversial allegations of an arms transfer to Moscow last December, represents a threat to the national security interests in the United States?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, we can’t tell South Africa how they should promote their own foreign policy, but we have been clear in all of our messaging that Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine needs to be condemned. And any countries taking actions to support Russia, I think, goes against all of the values that we hold close as a country, but also in the United Nations. South Africa is a member of the United Nations. The Charter is being violated, and we encourage South Africa to be aware of that as they are having their BRICS discussion.

QUESTION: Are secondary sanctions off the table in this regard?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have not taken anything off the table, but we’ve not put anything on the table.

QUESTION: But the table exists, right?


QUESTION: All right. So a final question for you. What is the U.S. position on the African heads of state peace initiative announced by President Ramaphosa two weeks ago in relation to the war in Ukraine? Does this initiative have Washington’s backing?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We support any efforts that will find a peaceful solution, but we’ve been clear: a peace discussion about the war cannot be done without Ukraine. Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. So we have encouraged countries to reach out to the Ukrainian government, and I understand that the African group will be going to Ukraine. But Sherwin, let me be clear: this war can end tomorrow if Russia pulls its troops out of Ukraine. That’s all that’s needed at this moment. This is an unprovoked, unjustified attack on the sovereignty of a country. And every country involved in the peace process, as they go into pushing for peace, need to go in with a clear understanding that Russia is the aggressor, not Ukraine.

QUESTION: Has the South African government reached out to the United States? What are those conversations like?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I can’t go into discussions that we’ve had with South Africa. But we’ve been clear in our messaging that Ukraine has to be engaged on any peace discussions.

QUESTION: Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Envoy to the United Nations and a member of the White House National Security Council, as always, thank you.