Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council Briefing on Ethiopia and the Situation in Tigray

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 8, 2021


Thank you, Mr. President. And let me start by recognizing and thanking the Council for getting out the statement last Friday that called for a ceasefire and expressed our strong concerns about the situation in Ethiopia. Thank you, Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo, for your briefing. And thank you to African Union High Representative Obasanjo for your briefing, and very specifically for your on-the-ground reports and efforts in the region. We strongly urge all parties to support and cooperate with you as you work to bring peace and stability to the region.

The conflict in Ethiopia has now been going on for a full year. And this is a tremendously sad milestone, and, as my Irish colleague stated, we really remained silent for too long. Over the past year, we have seen constant violence, we’ve witnessed widespread human rights abuses and atrocities. We’ve seen credible, documented, and persistent reports, from a wide range of sources, of looting, displacement, extrajudicial executions, rape, and sexual violence as weapons of war. And we’ve seen the threat of mass famine loom large as humanitarian aid and medical supplies are delayed and denied from going to civilians who need it most.

The joint UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission report details all of this very clearly. It makes it plain that there have been many human rights violations and abuses. And it demonstrates that the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, the Eritrean Defense Forces, the Amhara Special Forces, and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front are all culpable. There are no good guys here. There are only victims on all sides. This vital report was limited in geography and chronology. Both should be expanded to ensure more recent allegations from across the region can be investigated and perpetrators held accountable.

In the meantime, the violations and abuses documented cannot be tolerated. Suspected individuals need to be removed from active duty pending investigation. Independent bodies must be allowed to investigate and ensure accountability. Humanitarians must be allowed unimpeded access. And the violence must stop. This is not the Ethiopia that we thought we would see two years earlier when we were applauding this country as the fastest growing economy in Africa. The unity and integrity of the Ethiopian state faces an existential threat from within. And millions of innocent civilians are at risk as the conflict expands and warring parties advance toward Addis.

Mr. President, colleagues: It is time for all parties to immediately halt hostilities and refrain from incitement to violence and divisiveness. The bellicose rhetoric and inflammatory language on all sides of this conflict only aggravate intercommunal violence. It is time for the Government of Ethiopia, the TPLF, and all other groups to engage in immediate ceasefire negotiations without preconditions to find a sustainable path toward peace. And it is long past time for the Eritrean Defense Forces to withdraw from Ethiopian territory. It is time to put your weapons down. And let me repeat that. It is time to put your weapons down. This war between angry, belligerent men – victimizing women and children – has to stop.

As we call for peace, I want to address some critics who have said that the United States is biased toward one side of this conflict. Let me be crystal clear: we condemn violence on all sides. We condemn any and all human rights violations and abuses committed by all sides. So, we condemn the violence by the ENDF and the Eritrean Defense Forces. And we condemn the TPLF’s violence. We condemn the TPLF’s expansion of war outside of Tigray. The TPLF must withdraw from Afar and Amhara. And we call on the TPLF and the Oromo Liberation Army to immediately stop the current advance toward Addis.

We also call on the Ethiopian government to respect international humanitarian law. We’re not taking sides. Innocent people, innocent Ethiopians, are starving in northern Ethiopia. Withholding food and medical supplies is not acceptable. It is not an acceptable tactic at any time. And frankly, it’s unconscionable, and not what we would expect from Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government must allow UN agencies and their partners to staff their operations with the specialized expertise required to mount an effective response. The reckless expulsion of UN officials are an affront to the United Nations and to the people of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Government must also investigate the terrible killings of humanitarian and human rights workers and hold those responsible to account. And it must cease all arbitrary detentions and ethnic targeting in Addis.

Given the nationwide state of emergency, we are concerned about the safety of U.S. citizens, U.S. government personnel, and their dependents, and the security of our facilities remain paramount. We will do everything in our power to keep our people safe. But we also ask that the state of emergency not be used as a pretense to attack civilians.

We know, and you all know, the only solution to this conflict is a political solution. To that end, the African Union has an important role in resolving this conflict and sustaining regional peace and security. And I wish to thank President Obasanjo, again, for his efforts. Similarly, we support Kenyan President Kenyatta’s November 3 call for all parties to return to political negotiations, and also his efforts in this regard.

Ultimately, the only ones who can bring lasting peace to Ethiopia are its leaders and its people. Only a wider dialogue about the future of their state, where all of Ethiopia’s people are represented, can lead to broader democratic and economic renewal. It is never too late for peace. But the longer this conflict goes on, the harder the road to peace becomes and the more people will die. And as you heard from High Representative Obasanjo, the window of opportunity is limited and time is running out. I urge all parties – all parties – in the strongest possible terms, to back away from the brink and lead their people toward peace, and to resume the development agenda that will lead to prosperity for all Ethiopians.

Thank you, Mr. President.