Ambassador Linda Thomas-GreenfieldU.S. Representative to the United Nations New York, New York September 12, 2023
MODERATOR: (In progress) from the U.S. Department of State’s Dubai Regional Media Hub. I would like to welcome our participants joining us from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and around the world for this on-the-record briefing with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield. During this call, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield will discuss her recent trip to the border of Chad and Sudan, where she announced over $160 million of additional U.S. assistance for the people of Sudan as well as new sanctions to hold those responsible for committing atrocities in Darfur accountable. After opening remarks, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield will take questions from participating journalists.
We are pleased to offer simultaneous interpretation for this briefing in Arabic. We request that everyone keep this in mind and speak slowly.
I will now turn it over to Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield for her opening remarks. Ambassador, the floor is yours.
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you, Sam. Good morning, everyone, and thank you so much for joining us today. Before we open up the – for questions, I want to give a quick readout of my trip to Chad and to Cabo Verde. I’ll start with my day in Adré. Adré is a town near the Sudanese border with Chad. While there, I met with refugees who had fled the unthinkable violence and the atrocities in Sudan. So many told me how grateful they were to the Chadian Government and to the Chadian people, who have welcomed them and supported them at this perilous moment. I, too, want to express my profound appreciation to the Chadian Government and to the people of Chad as well as to all the humanitarian workers who are doing so much with so little and still saving lives.
While in Adré, I saw this lifesaving work firsthand, including at an MSF hospital where hundreds of children were being treated for acute malnutrition – children who were severely underweight, whose ankles were swollen from malnutrition, and who were too weak to speak or cry. It was perhaps one of the saddest experiences of my life. And it really reaffirmed my conviction that we must all do more to support the Sudanese people in their time of immense need. And to that aim, while in Chad, I did announce, as you heard, the U.S. is providing nearly $163 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the people of Sudan and neighboring countries, including Chad. This brings the total U.S. humanitarian assistance to nearly $710 million for the Sudan emergency.
But the United States cannot do this alone. A crisis of this magnitude requires global cooperation, and right now the Humanitarian Response Plan for 2023 is less than 30 percent funded. I will continue to call on the international community to step up, just as I will continue to call on the international community to do everything possible to prevent and respond to mass atrocities and to hold those responsible for ongoing horrors in Sudan to account.
As part of that effort, last week I announced U.S. sanctions on Abdelrahim Hamdan Dagalo, a senior commander in Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces and the brother of RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, for their connection to abuses by the RSF and associated militias against civilians in Sudan. I also announced U.S. visa restrictions on RSF general and West Darfur commander Abdul Rahman Juma for his involvement in gross violations of human rights. I’ll also note that while in Chad, I met with human rights activists and civil society leaders as well as Chadian Transitional President Mahamat Idriss Déby.
During my trip, I had the opportunity to spend time in Cabo Verde as well – a key U.S. ally. And while in Praia, I met with Foreign Minister Figueiredo as well as President Neves to discuss a host of issues and build on our strong bilateral relationship. And while in (inaudible), I met – had a chance to engage with a group of young Cabo Verdeans who have participated in U.S. exchange programs. I did my very best to inspire these young leaders to pursue careers in public service.
I’m going to stop there and try to spend as much time as possible for your questions. Again, thank you for joining this call, for covering the ongoing conflict in Sudan. We need to wake up the world – to wake up the world to the horrors that are unfolding there. Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Ambassador. We will now begin the question-and-answer portion of today’s call. So I will start with a pre-submitted question, and that is from our colleague Aya Sayed from Egypt’s Roayah News. And Aya asks: “Ambassador, can you provide an update on the ability to effectively deliver aid to those in need within Sudan, especially given recent developments? And given the perceived insufficient international response to Sudan’s humanitarian crisis, what steps is the U.S. taking to encourage and mobilize other donors to increase their contributions and support?” Over to you, Ambassador.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good. That’s exactly why I took it upon myself, with the support of the administration, to make this trip to the Chadian border. That was, one, to highlight and really amplify for the world what was happening in Sudan and how it impacted Chad, to really – and I was traveling with a lot of international press, three in fact, so that they could report on the situation there. And I had two goals in mind: one, to announce additional U.S. funding, but also, even more importantly, to encourage others to provide additional funding to this underfunded appeal that the UN has put out for 2023.
So my goal is, over the course of the next few days and weeks since I returned, to engage with other donors, to press other donors to provide additional assistance, because the needs are great. The work that the humanitarian organizations are doing is really essential, but they do not have all of the resources that they need. I had the opportunity to be there at the same time as the UN High Commission for Human Rights Filippo Grandi who was traveling with one of the senior vice presidents from the World Bank, who also at that time announced an additional 300 million by the World Bank.
So we are encouraging others. We are supporting the efforts of the UN to raise the profile of this crisis.
MODERATOR: Great. Thank you, Ambassador. Let me go to another pre-submitted question because, as I noted, we do have many. Let me go to a question from our colleague Waleed Sabry from Bahrain’s Al Watan newspaper. And Waleed asks: “Ambassador, does the United States’ imposition of sanctions on the Rapid Support Forces indicate U.S. support for the Sudanese Armed Forces?” Over to you, Ambassador.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Waleed, we’re not supporting either side. We’re supporting the people of Sudan. And we are holding to account those who have committed atrocities against the people of Sudan. So these sanctions that we announced when I was in Chad were part of an effort to hold accountable those individuals who were responsible for the atrocities that have been committed in Darfur, and we’re continuing our efforts to hold others to account as well.
MODERATOR: Great, thank you, Ambassador. We’ll now go to a question from the live queue. Moving around geographically, we’ll go to one of our colleagues based in Kenya, and that’s Anne Soy from the BBC, based in Kenya. Anne, I’m going to go ahead and open your line, and if you can unmute yourself and ask your question.
QUESTION: Thank you very much for the opportunity. It’s just to follow up on Waleed’s question there. Are you saying, Ambassador, that we would expect more sanctions from the United States against the different parties to this conflict? And are you working with a timeline?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, we have been clear and the Secretary of State has been clear that when he has credible information concerning violations of human rights, that we will take that information and move forward with that. And so we continue to actively review cases, and the Secretary will apply the authority to designate these individuals as the information is being brought to us.
MODERATOR: Great, thank you, Ambassador. We’ll go to another pre-submitted question now, and that’s from our colleague Ellen Loanes from Vox Media, based in the U.S.
And Ellen asks: “How will the sanctions against Hemedti’s brother and other RSF actors in Darfur impact their ability to carry out attacks and human rights violations in the region? And who is collecting evidence of sexual violence or ethnically motivated killings in order to hold the guilty parties accountable?”
Over to you, Ambassador.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you, again, for that question. And look, these individuals who were designated when I was there, they felt the response immediately. I got a press inquiry while I was there concerning these individuals, and it is clear that they heard it and they know that they’re being watched, and they know that they are being held accountable. And I think it sends a message to others that we’re watching, and that they can’t get away with the commission of these atrocities.
Look, when I was in the – when I was in the border area, there were dozens of civil society, human rights defenders, lawyers who had escaped. They all come out with information. People who have been the victims of atrocities are being interviewed, and they’re sharing their fears, they’re sharing their experiences, they’re sharing what they saw with the world. And we’ve seen a number of reports that have come out concerning the atrocities that are being committed, and all of that is being gathered. And as you know, even the ICC has been looking at some of this documentation. So the evidence is coming in from many different sources.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Ambassador. We’ll now go back to the live queue for a question from our colleague Bahira Amin from Agence France-Presse, based in Egypt. Bahira, I’m going to go ahead and open your line, and if you would unmute yourself and ask your question.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you for this additional information on the humanitarian efforts. Considering Army Chief Burhan’s recent trips abroad, there have been suggestions that there’s been a return to diplomatic efforts. Are there plans by the U.S. to restart negotiations in Jeddah, and would the U.S. and Saudi Arabia join forces with the African Union and IGAD mediation efforts for that?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, we have been actively engaged from the beginning on efforts to find a peaceful solution. The solution clearly is for both sides to put down their arms immediately. Neither have done that. But we’re engaging with all of the parties in the region – the neighbors, the Arab League, as you know, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, African Union, and IGAD – to bring all of the regional forces together to pressure this – the two parties to end this unconscionable war. And we will continue with those diplomatic efforts, and we support any effort by all – any of the parties to pressure the two sides to cease this conflict.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Ambassador. I think we only have time for maybe one or two more questions. So we’ll go – we’ll continue with the live queue to our colleague Hiba Nasr from Asharq News TV. Hiba, I’m going to go ahead and open your line, and then if you can unmute yourself and ask your question.
QUESTION: Can you hear me now?
QUESTION: Thank you, Sam. Thank you, Ambassador. Ambassador, I believe you’ve been asked this question, but let me repeat, please. First, nobody can underestimate the U.S. and humanitarian assistance. But you may agree that we are dealing here with the consequences. I don’t want to go back on why we are here, and if you could have engaged earlier, but as we are interpreting more this conflict it’s kind of personal between two generals. Why not directing the pressure directly to al-Burhan and Hemedti? What preventing you from taking actions against them?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, certainly they are responsible for this. There’s no doubt in anyone’s minds that these two generals are fighting for power and the people of Sudan are suffering because of that fight. And we have been clear to both sides that accountability – we will hold those accountable for atrocities. There are intense efforts at the moment to get the two sides to stop fighting. We have said very clearly to parties across the region that they should not support either side in this really unconscionable war, and we will continue to keep the pressure on both of them so that they can end this conflict immediately.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Ambassador. I’m going to close us out with one final pre-submitted question. Again, apologies to all of the journalists. We had so many pre-submitted questions today and I can see many of you raising your hands. And we really thank Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield for her time today.
Let me do one final pre-submitted question, and that comes from our colleague Gafar Alsabaki Ibrahim from Radio Dabanga based in Belgium. And Gafar asks: “Do you have plans, does the U.S. have plans to address the dire humanitarian situation faced by refugees in Chad, particularly the shortage of humanitarian aid?”
Over to you, Ambassador.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Again, Gafar, that’s exactly what we are trying to do in Chad. Again, it was the reason for my visit. Also, the head of USAID – the administrator for USAID was in the region earlier in the year. I engaged with the head of UNHCR. They’ve been leading on the response to deal with refugees. And let me say they are doing an amazing job and they are doing it without enough support. So we do need to get more support to these organizations, to the people who are coming out of Sudan, but also to the people of Chad, many of them living in dire situations as well, who are supporting this population coming out.
The people coming out are traumatized. We have seen the number of women – significant number of women have been raped. The violence that has – these people have experienced is very apparent and we have to do everything possible to provide them with the assistance that they need.
And so that’s my goal. I will continue to do everything I can. The U.S. Government will continue to be the lead donor. But we cannot do it alone. We need others to support this effort. I really appreciate the press reporting on this situation and amplifying what we – what you’re hearing and what we all saw so that the world is made aware of the situation there, but also it will encourage other countries to consider providing support to this needy – to this effort.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Ambassador, and now, if you have any closing remarks, I’ll turn it back over to you.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yes. Again, I want to thank all of you for covering this. I want to thank you for your reporting on what is happening in Sudan and what is happening on the border with Chad. I mentioned to reporters when I was in the region that one of the things that spurred me to do this is that we had the first open meeting on the situation in Sudan when I was president of the Security Council. And one of the civil society briefers said in her briefing that the world had forgotten the people of Sudan. And I wanted to make sure that the world had not forgotten and wanted to make sure that you and others continue to cover this situation.
So you play a key role in reporting on this situation and informing the public, informing the world on what is happening, and hopefully that will help our efforts to get additional donors, additional funding for the people of Sudan and the people of Chad and other countries where Sudanese refugees have been forced to flee.
MODERATOR: That concludes today’s call. I would like to thank U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield for joining us and thank all of our colleagues from the media for participating. If you have any questions about today’s call, you can contact the Dubai Regional Media Hub at DubaiMediaHub@state.gov. Thank you.