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US interference in Ethiopia serves its own purposes
On Saturday 20 March, a delegation led by U.S. Senator Chris Coons, acting as an envoy of US President Joe Biden, arrived in Ethiopia for talks with the country’s de-facto government led by Abiy Ahmed. In the lead up to the trip, the White House released a statement by its National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, which outlined the purpose of Coons’ visit as being to “….. convey President Biden’s grave concerns about the humanitarian crisis and human rights abuses in the Tigray region and the risk of broader instability in the Horn of Africa. He will also consult with the African Union on how to advance the region’s shared interests in peace and prosperity”. Following their arrival in
Addis Ababa, local media reported that the delegation held a closed-door meeting with Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen and the spokesperson for Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Dina Mufti. Dina Mufti was further reported as criticising some of the demands raised by the US government for infringing on Ethiopia’s sovereignty. On 23 March, Abiy Ahmed, speaking in the parliament in Addis Ababa admitted for the first time that Eritrean troops were operating in Ethiopia and that atrocities had been committed against the people of Tigray. Since the war began in November 2020, the Ethiopian government has steadfastly denied that Eritrean troops were operating in Tigray and that war crimes, including massacres and systematic raping and sexual abuse of women were taking place there. They have denounced all such claims as propaganda from the Tigray regional government which they are fighting against. In fact, Abiy went so far as to claim in the parliament in November 2020 that not a single civilian had been killed in Tigray as a result of the war.
Subterfuge, intrigue and war
The current catastrophic war which has engulfed Tigray represents a disaster not only for the people of Tigray state but also for the people of Ethiopia and the wider Horn of Africa. The refusal to resolve the political differences which emerged in the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) through peaceful, democratic and constitutional means are the source of the current crisis. In March 2018, Abiy Ahmed was elected as the leader of the EPRDF with a mandate to lead the organisation into the August 2020 elections. However, he abolished the EPRDF, setting up his own Prosperity Party in its place and, in violation of the Ethiopian constitution, indefinitely postponed the elections which were due in August 2020. Today, the ruling Prosperity Party has never competed in an election in Ethiopia and lacks constitutional legitimacy.
Instead of resolving the political differences between the Prosperity Party and their opponents, including the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the current Ethiopian leadership, using Abiy’s Nobel Peace Prize as a shield, instead chose subterfuge and intrigue as the way forward and war as the means to sort out the problem. Those who are today shouting about defending Ethiopia’s sovereignty hatched plots with the Trump presidency, including Michael Pompeo and Tibor
Nagy Jnr, the then Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and went so far as to enlist the military and financial support of foreign governments, including Eritrea, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to wage a war of annihilation against their own citizens. So much for respect for Ethiopia’s sovereignty. Today the Abiy government and the government of Eritrea stand exposed before the whole world for the crimes and atrocities they have committed in Tigray.
Strategic interests of the USA
Sensing the opportunities that the catastrophe in Tigray presents for advancing their own interests, the current Biden administration is stepping up its interference in Ethiopia under the banner of “averting a humanitarian crisis” and ending the “human rights abuses being committed against the people of Tigray”. Many people, sickened by the horrific crimes committed in Tigray by the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments and their allies, have formed the opinion that calling for greater foreign intervention in Ethiopia by the USA and the other big powers represents the solution to the problem. However, the reality shows that such intervention, which is always carried out under high sounding phrases, is designed solely to secure the interests of the big powers and never to solve the problems the people face. Invariably, it leaves these countries shattered and in chaos. The experiences of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, to name a few bear out this reality. The US intervention in Ethiopia has nothing to do with a humanitarian motivation. In a statement on his website, after he spoke to Abiy Ahmed in November 2020, Senator Coons outlined the importance of Ethiopia to the strategic interests of the USA in the Horn of Africa. It declared that, “Ethiopia is one of the world’s fastest growing economies and is Africa’s second most populous country. Major U.S. companies including General Electric and Dow have operations in the East African country. Ethiopia is an important security partner in a volatile region. It hosts the African Union headquarters and is the world’s largest troop contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, with forces deployed to UN missions in Sudan and South Sudan, and in Somalia as part of a multinational effort to counter Al Qaeda affiliate Al Shabaab”. Therefore, it can be seen that the US motivation for interfering in Ethiopia is focused on protecting the interests of its monopoly corporations, utilising it as a base for extending its influence among AU member states and using Ethiopians as foot soldiers in its war operations in the broader region.
The people of Ethiopia and Eritrea, like people throughout Africa, have a long history of successfully fighting for their rights. The over 30-year war which overthrew the Derg regime is testament to this. Today, they are faced with the need sum up how the historic victories against the Derg turned into today’s catastrophe, so that they can use this understanding to advance their struggle in the here and now, while relying on themselves. This is a struggle that cannot achieve success by relying on the intervention of the US and the other big powers.