Thursday, August 10, 2023


ABDELKADER AIAD (via translation)To speak to us about this from the American perspective towards development, we have Administrator Samantha Power. Welcome Ms. Power, I’ll start with the issue of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and regarding the Russian position and what they took. Now, you were there in Ukraine, what is your comment on the Russian side regarding this agreement and its effect especially on countries in Africa, in developing countries, regarding increase in prices?

ADMINISTRATOR SAMANTHA POWER: Well, we’re already seeing the impact. Wheat prices are up nine percent globally since President Putin pulled out of the deal. We also see the impact in seeming to free up Russian forces to bombard the peaceful port city of Odesa in Ukraine – so, you actually see much more carnage, destruction of churches, destruction of course of grain and port infrastructure. And this is going to be damaging not only in the short term, but in the longer term given that Ukraine is one of the bread baskets for countries like Egypt, Lebanon, Kenya, Somalia – countries that really rely on this wheat imports.

So, I’m gratified to see how many leaders from the Global South have spoken out publicly, including from the Middle East, from sub-Saharan Africa. The very few leaders who went to President Putin’s Africa’s Leaders Summit, a dramatic drop in attendance from before he decided to invade his neighbor. But those leaders who were there also made a point of imploring Putin to go back into the Black Sea Grain Deal and that will mean Ukrainian wheat will reach hungry people, but more than that it is going to mean more supply on the global market before bringing prices down as a whole.

AIAD (via translation)You are saying a limited increase in price, Ms. Power. But until now which is being suggested is that the alternatives in exporting Ukrainian wheat seems are not effective and have a little impact. What is your assessment on this impact being short term rather than long term?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, we’ve been working as USAID in Ukraine, with the United Nations, with the Ukrainian government, with the Europeans to strengthen alternative export routes, and actually amazingly those export routes, by river, by rail, by road are working. In fact, the throughput of grains and oils that vulnerable communities need around the world has increased by 4,000 percent since Putin’s full-scale invasion.

So, you actually see about 40 million metric tons of food leaving Ukraine by other means, but Putin knows this. So, what did Putin start doing after he pulled out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative? He started bombing the river ports. He had never done that before. His forces had never done that before. So just at the time where Ukrainian resilience, and it’s ingenuity, and it’s effort to make sure that by hook or crook it’s going to get the wheat to, and the oils to, the people who need it around the world, at just that point Putin goes after the river port infrastructure as well. So at a certain point all of the pressure just needs to reside where it belongs, which is on those who would attack grain infrastructure that is being used to secure grain exports to communities that need it, at a time of heightened food insecurity around the world. 

AIAD (via translation)What are the chances to respond to the demands on the Russian side until it returns to this agreement, Ms. Samantha? 

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Let me be very clear about the Russian, so called demands. One of the demands, for example, is that Russian food and fertilizer not be subjected to Western sanctions. Well here are the facts, Russian food and fertilizer are not subject to Western sanctions. Indeed Russia exported more wheat last year than at any time in recorded history. Russia is not in need of the kind of relief that it is in need of. Russia is interested in destroying Ukraine’s economy, and Russia does not care that the effects of destroying Ukraine’s economy, that those effects are being felt by the poorest of the poor, who depend on these wheat imports.

And let me be clear, 80 percent of the World Food Program’s wheat that it deployed around the world to places like Somalia, Northern Kenya, Ethiopia, and elsewhere – 80 percent – of the WFP’s wheat has come via the Black Sea Grain Initiative over the course of the last year. So, what Putin is doing is cutting off access to that vital lifeline to hungry people.

AIAD (via translation)If we can go to another country, to another continent – to Niger and what’s going on in that country. To a different situation regarding to the humanitarian situation, and American-Nigerien cooperation, what is your comment about this situation and American assistance to Niger. What is your perspective of the situation in Niger, Ms. Samantha. 

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well first let me say that energized diplomacy is acutely needed, it is happening in the region. ECOWAS, of course, meeting and leaders coming together to try and pressure those who have seized power unconstitutionally, to walk that back and to return to constitutional rule and to restore the democratically-elected president, President Bazoum.

In terms of the U.S. approach, we are coordinating with our partners, who provide really substantial assistance, including to various government entities. We, the United States, provide significant security assistance, as well, around $300 million worth of security assistance because there has been a significant terrorist threat inside Niger. And obviously, when you have the military seizing power in this illegal way, it is going to be impossible to continue to provide those military leaders access to that assistance.

We, at USAID, are focused on the humanitarian needs of the people of Niger, and when it comes to food assistance and those humanitarian needs of course we will try to continue to meet those needs, but those needs are going to increase. Because what happens when this kind of illegal action occurs – when there is a rejection of democracy that the people of Niger worked so hard to build, you start to see the private sector leaving the country, you start to see embassies being evacuated. That is going to be very bad for the economy and very, very bad for the people of Niger.

AIAD (via translation)What do you think about what’s happening in Sudan? We saw in the recent days the meetings of the representatives of the Sudanese governments and the permanent representative to the UN. What about the Sudanese file for you, Ms. Samantha?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: I mean the situation in Sudan is devastating. There was a country where the people rose up, demanded democratic rule several years ago, only to be thwarted. In particular it was young people – it was actually young women who demanded an end to dictatorship, an end to repression and that effort to get to civilian rule was thwarted, in the first instance, by a military coup – by those who just put their own interest above the interest of the Sundanese people, and then more recently, started April, of course, military fighting between two factions, who each want to claim power rather than to have the citizens be empowered. 

There are devastating reports of bodies being spread out throughout the city of Khartoum, where you might start to see major disease spreading. Hospitals have shut down across the country. I have traveled to Chad, the Chadian border, to meet Sudanese refugees crossing into Chad. They told horrific tales of atrocity of sexual violence – the same tactics that we saw employed during the genocide in Darfur. And right now, today, I spoke with a key Sudanese official imploring him to allow humanitarians the access they need to reach hungry people, to provide psychosocial support to those who have been traumatized by the violence, but fundamentally there is no humanitarian solution to what is ailing Sudan right now. It requires [al-]Burhan and Hemedti to put the guns down, and to reach a peaceful settlement, and put, again, the interest of the Sudanese people who want nothing more than peace and opportunity and democracy, put their interest above some interest of some men who are now destroying the country.

AIAD (via translation)Are you pressuring the parties, and in what methods?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Very similar, or analogous at least, to the crisis in Niger, diplomacy is absolutely critical – as is the unity of the international community and regional actors who have influence, in the case of Sudan, over the two factions that are bringing the country to ruin. It is absolutely essential that there not be military resupplies coming in where each side thinks that they can win.

This is a horrific situation where nobody is going to win, and there will be no winners at all and the losers will be innocent civilians, and that has been true since April 15 when this war began and it is even worse today – as malnutrition for young people is skyrocketing. We are putting pressure both to secure humanitarian access, so USAID and others can provide life-saving support, but key, as you note in your question, is that diplomatic pressure to get the factions to the negotiating table and to ensure that, again, regional pressure is united is securing – in the first instance – a lasting ceasefire, and then, a peace and a return, again, to that road map that will bring about civilian rule. 

AIAD: Madame Samantha Power, USAID, thank you very much to you.


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