Meet the Top US Africa Diplomat, Former Amb. to Ethiopia Yamamoto

Donald Yamamoto, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia from 2006 to 2009, is the top Trump Administration diplomat in the U.S. State Department's Bureau of African Affairs. Ambassador Yamamoto assumed his current post as the Acting Assistant Secretary for Africa on Sept. 5, 2017. He previously served in the same position under the Obama Administration in 2013 and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary from 2009-2013. (Photo: U.S. Embassy, Ethiopia)



The current U.S. administration’s top diplomat on African affairs, Acting Assistant Secretary Don Yamamoto, recently completed a 10-day trip to Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Rwanda which included talks on a wide range of issues with the African Union. Upon his return to Washington, D.C., he was questioned by African journalists in a telephone news conference. Excerpts:

[Questions on Ethiopia]

First of all is going back to the question on the IGAD process. Ethiopia really is a critical partner and leader. As you know, Ethiopia is in the chair for IGAD, leading the high-level discussions in South Sudan. But more importantly is that Ethiopia contributes troops to peacekeeping operations in Southern Sudan as well as Sudan. And Ethiopia is one of our largest troop-contributing countries for peacekeeping operations in Africa, and that is really a very important point to highlight.

The second point is, yes, we did note and we did discuss with the government about a lot of the challenges, not only the efforts of Ethiopian troops to stabilize Somalia, prevent terrorism and elements from Shabab and ISIS coming into Ethiopia, but also the internal domestic challenges that you face in Ethiopia and the Somalia area, based not only on ethnic divides, land tenure problems, obviously procedures, government procedures, local practices, etc. but it’s an issue that the government is fully focused on, but it’s an issue also that we as very close partners with the government and the people of Ethiopia will work cooperatively to address and resolve.

The reason why Ethiopia is so critical, if you look again, just like Kenya, Ethiopia has one of our largest missions. Ethiopia is a pillar country for Africa. It has an 8% economic growth rate, it is addressing really fundamental challenges of food and security and shortage, and over the years through partnerships with USAID and what we know as the Fuse Net Network, which is the early warning system, we’ve been able to mitigate and address a lot of the food security in Ethiopia, which has now become really a model for how you address food and security in other parts of not only Africa but the world.

So we will continue to work with Ethiopia on a wide range of issues, and it’s a close partnership. We’re gonna have differences. We’re gonna be arguing on issues. But at the end of the day it’s a very close partnership. What we discussed with the Prime Minister and the government, you know, I defer to them because those are very private, secure conversations, but let me just say that those discussions were very warm, cooperative, but what’s more important is we share a lot of issues and that we really do need Ethiopia as we do Kenya, as we look toward the 22nd century, because we’re gonna have high population growth rates and we’re gonna really need to address how you address those issues of job creation, economic development.

Ethiopia has some good ideas; Ethiopia has some great practices. And so we’re going to take those lessons learned and join them with other countries, and then hopefully have a strategy that will benefit all of Africa. And then correct issues that are not helping and not working, and that’s a very good relationship if everyone’s very open to discussion and if they’re willing to continue to bolster that….”

Read the full excerpt from the press conference with Ambassador Yamamoto at »

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