AU probes Twitter gaffe touching on Ethiopia, USAID boss Samantha Power

Saturday August 14 2021
Samantha Power

Samantha Power, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, speaks at a hotel in Sudan's capital Khartoum on August 3, 2021. PHOTO | AFP


The African Union (AU) was left fighting an image crisis after a staffer lampooned USAID boss Samantha Power using its official Twitter handle.

Ms Power had called for a ceasefire to the conflict in Tigray, Ethiopia, tweeting: "There is no military solution to the conflict. Humanitarian needs are already dire but they will get much worse unless all parties agree to dialogue and ending hostilities."

But a tweet from the AU handle fired back in response, saying: 

"Good Lord. You mean just like the time you sat and talked to ISIS and Taliban? Ethiopia cannot negotiate with the TPLF terrorist group. How can a democratic cause impose a minority will on a majority?"

The tweet was quickly deleted. Later, the AU posted another tweet saying the response to Ms Power reflected the personal views of a staffer.

"The now deleted tweet does not reflect the AU position, and is viewed as a serious breach of conduct. The incident is being investigated internally," the AU added.


The incident comes at a time when the US is planning to send back its Horn of Africa envoy to push for dialogue between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).

The envoy, Jeffrey Feltman, is due to visit Ethiopia as conflict in the northern Tigray region spills to other parts of the country.

Ahead of the planned visit, Jake Sullivan, a national security adviser to President Joe Biden, said on his Twitter account that he had asked Feltman to travel to Ethiopia "at this critical time."

He further called on all parties to the conflict to begin negotiations.

"Months of war have brought immense suffering and division to a great nation that won't be healed through more fighting. We call on all parties to urgently come to the negotiating table," Mr Sullivan said.

It is this tweeted message that Ms Power was responding to on Twitter when the AU staffer responded in kind.

According to the State Department, the special envoy will travel to Ethiopia, Djibouti, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from August 15 to August 24.

During his ten-day trip to the three countries, Mr Feltman will meet with senior officials in the three countries "to discuss opportunities for the United States to promote peace and support the stability and prosperity of the Horn of Africa."

The visit will be his third to Ethiopia since being appointed as special envoy by President Biden.

Following the conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, the United States has been sending envoys to Ethiopia in a bid to push for dialogue between the conflicting parties.

Last week, Ms Power visited Ethiopia and Sudan, but said she had not managed to meet Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Foreign minister Demeke Mekonnen.

Ethiopia's foreign affairs spokesperson, Dina Mufti, told reporters that the leaders could not meet her due to their workloads.