For some time now, since the Addis campaign to neutralize the Tigre military opposition, the U.S.has been weaponizing the human rights issues in Ethiopia in a manner that is both cynical and dangerous, following a pattern similar to the destabilization patterns Washington has employed elsehwere… a first step for more aggressive actions? On the “menu” for future steps -if the pattern is implemented – expect sanctions, vilification of the leadership, distorted reporting on human rights abuses, no flyzones, military intervention of one kind or another – “di gantse arbet” (the whole works!)
A memory stirs… It’s ten years ago and I am participating in a forum at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies where I taught, It is just prior to the U.S.-NATO orchestrated invasion of Libya and the overthrow of the Khadaffi government there. An atmosphere approaching hysteria prevails in the room among the other panelists as well as the audience. As is usually the case, I am isolated among my peers and students in my opposition to the coming attack. The argument put forth at the time was that in order to save the lives of imprisoned Islamicists in Bengazi the United States and NATO had to bomb Libya.
As with Iraqi weapons of mass destruction in 2003, it turned out there was no evidence, none, of Khadaffi’s impending repression. As in Iraq, the human rights hysteria was a pretext for war. Bottom line:in the name of a “human rights morality” a naked wars of aggression and neo-colonial conquest was launched against the government and the people of Libya.
Ten years on, I can’t help help thinking that with slight differences, there is a similar buildup towards war and regime change in Ethiopia. Frankly I don’ think it will work but could result in untold human and infrastructural damage to Ethiopia, leaving that emerging regional power little more than a basket case, subservient to international capital as it has been up until now. Ethiopia has been trying to break away from such a model and to create its own internal and regional dynamic of development.
The international aspect of the overriding crisis in the Horn of Africa is also at play. Elias Wondium, writing in the Nigerian publication, Premium Times warns of a new “scramble for Africa”:
The new global players in the region are no longer France, Italy, Great Britain, and Germany. Today, China, the United Kingdom, the European Union, the U.S., Russia, India, Brazil, Turkey, Iran, South Korea, and the Gulf nations are all working hard to expand their spheres of influence. If our reading of current affairs and history is correct, what is starting in the Horn of Africa is yet another World War “Scramble for Africa”.
The news from Ethiopia continues to be troubling; even more troubling is the way it is being reported.
A United Nations Security resolution was set aside on March 4 after Russia, India and China all threatened to veto the measure. Supported by Washington, to have been introduced by Ireland, it sought to get international approval for a statement calling for an end to violence in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigre region, and to bring attention to the need for humanitarian assistance to the Tigre region. It sounds innocent enough.
Had it passed however, such a resolution would have almost certainly been followed up with United Nations Security Council calls for sanctions, and what might follow: no fly zones, NATO and/or AFRICOM led (or encouraged) military intervention. In fact the call for sanctions against Ethiopia is already being heard from Tigre supporters in the USA. Will this call move from the streets of Los Angeles to Congress?
From the mainstream media reports you’d think that Abey Ahmed’s Ethiopian central government has been committing war crimes against the Tigre population in Tigre Province, refusing assistance to refugees and in general, playing a nefarious role in crushing the Tigres.
Beware of mainstream media bearing tales of war crimes and genocide and playing, once again, a humanitarian interventionist card – this time in Ethiopia.
The world is full of places where humanitarian intervention has been used as pretext for war and regime change. To name a few: former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and if Washington has its druthers, Iran. All started with cries of supposed war crimes, “weapons of mass destruction”, leadership akin to Hitler as a way of softening up public opinion for some form of hybrid warfare – be it sanctions, military intervention by great powers or proxies. All the crocodile tears! Will massive bombardments, mercenary incursions follow? Those approaches give Washington the cover of “plausible deniability’ for its wars of conquest and attempts at partition, either de jure or de facto.
Another possibility that has to be considered: a military coup in the name of “ending chaos”. Old game: create chaos in a country – or help stir it up and then, call in the military to “restore order” and follow a political approach more conducive to Washington?
Not saying it’s going to happen… but don’t rule it out.
Is it now, under Susan Rice’s tutorship, Ethiopia’s turn to be the object of Washington-based hybrid warfare?
All this comes at a critical juncture in Ethiopian history. The clock is ticking…
At a time when the prospects for a major breakthrough in the socio-economic situation of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa in general have never been greater, destabilization efforts have intensified considerably, both internally and externally, as if in an effort to throw a monkeywrench into the country’s development program. Also, a growing COVID-19 threat along with ethnic factionalism and outside interference threatens this promising moment.
The near completion of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and with it, the possibility of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa taking a major development leap forward have made current regional hegemonic powers, ie., Egypt, Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., nervous. They understand the Ethiopian development juggernaut as a zero sum game in which their influence will be reduced as Ethiopia’s grows in the Horn of Africa. Egypt has repeatedly threatened to bomb the GERD in order to interfer with its soon-to-be functioning.
Ethiopia is looking for a new kind of relationship with Egypt, one that rejects the colonial heritage of agreements on the management of the Nile river written under British colonial tutelage in which Ethiopia – and most of the other upstream Nile River Basin countries – had no voice. Egypt very much wants to maintain the regional status quo. The Ethiopian harnessing of the Nile is not so much for water extraction which threatens Egypt’s agricultural sector as much as it is for the production of electrical energy for Ethiopia and surrounding countries.
Although in such conflicts, of course, technical issues do play a role, for the most part, the barriers that Egypt – with support of Washington – continues to create over negotiating the GERD’s future essentially boil down to political concerns. The GERD also provides greater possibilities for Pan African regional development and coordination, especially if, as planned, Ethiopia is able to sell the excess electrical energy to its neighbors.
Ethiopia is one of China’s gateways to Africa through the Belt and Road Initiative. As Chinese influence in Ethiopia grows, Washington has increasingly shifted gears, reducing its support for the Addis government and entering into a more adversarial relationship. Washington’s hostility towards Addis Ababa has been growing for some time as shown in its complete support for the Egyptian position vis-a-vis the GERD; its blocking of IMF/World Bank funds to help finance the project, and more recently the completely reckless comments of former President Trump threatening Ethiopia that Egypt would bomb the GERD.
There has been no change, none whatsoever, in the Biden Administration’s approach to Ethiopia since Trump departed office. The Ethiopia File – if one can speak of it – of the new Administration is in the hands of three old Obama Administration bureaucrats: Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, National Security Council Advisor Jake Sullivan and Susan Rice, head of the Domestic Policy Council. These three have long records of “work” in Ethiopia, with the key player among them being Susan Rice. Rice’s close links to the TPLF need to be scrutinized in terms how they influence the current emerging destabilization campaign and foreign efforts to return the Tigre to power. She is anything but a neutral player.
For some time now, since the Addis campaign to neutralize the Tigre military opposition, the U.S.has been weaponizing the human rights issues in Ethiopia in a manner that is both cynical and dangerous using methods Washington has employed elsewhere. An Ethiopian commentator in Al Mariam’s Commentaries, recently put the current anti-Addis Ababa media offensive in sharp focus:
The U.S. and E.U. shed crocodile tears as they merchandize agony, despair and woe to advance their political objectives and in the process unload their White Man’s Burden to save the half-child, half-savage starving Africans. The truth about the lie propagated by the U.S. and E.U. about the “humanitarian situation in Tigray” is their greatest enemy. The U.S. and E.U. are weaponizing the misery and suffering of the people of Tigray for their own political ends. The U.S. and E.U. shed crocodile tears as they merchandize agony, despair and woe to advance their political objectives and in the process unload their White Man’s Burden to save the half-child, half-savage starving Africans.
Since the TPLF attacked the federal military base in Tigray region on November 3, 2020, the U.S, the European Union in cahoots with their lackeys — the Western old guard media, sycophant think tank echo chambers, the donation-grubbing self-righteous and self-appointed bearers of the “White Man’s Burden” in Africa, a/k/a international human rights organizations, heavily-lobbied prominent politicians, diaspora abandoned TPLF orphans and TPLF-lackeys in Ethiopia pretending to be dissidents — have been systematically and relentlessly shaping a demonic narrative on Ethiopia with the singular purpose of turning global public opinion against the Government of Ethiopia and to justify their role as the final deciders of the Lord of the Ethiopian “Iron Throne”.
The U.S. and E.U. have done it all with smoke and mirrors.
Harsh language, yes, but from my vantage point, spot on.
The goal of such a campaign is to get the Tigres, faithful U.S. surrogates and neo-cons, back in power, or failing that, partition Ethiopia yet again and create a new ethnic entity – Tigreland (or whatever they want to call it). Pressure is on full scale for Ethiopia to draw closer to Russia and Turkey, pushed into this situation by U.S. antagonism and aggressiveness. Expect to be hearing of Turkish and Russian military missions to Addis as the situation in Ethiopia further deteriorates.
For Washington, Ethiopia has long been much more of a security “lily pad” than a country to help develop. Economically, its importance is quite modest to Washington. Washington’s current strategy is one of creating chaos (or having others do it – Egypt, the Emirates, the Tigres, Wahhabists in the Islamic regions of the country). The goal is mostly to create a mess for China
The indications that Ethiopia is being targeted as these other countries have been are mounting. In recent months the State Department, which has called for condemning the Ethiopian government for its needed police action in Tigre Province, a number of members of Congress including Colorado’s U.S. Senator Michael Bennet has issued statements along the same lines. The angle of the media in the United States and Europe has expressed a clear bias against the Ethiopian government, accusing its mililitary of war crimes in Tigre Province and “the usual suspects” – international “human rights” organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch – increasingly joined at the hip with the State Department have lost their way.
These organizations have utterly failed once again – as they did in Yugoslavia, Iraq (prior to the U.S. invasion), Libya – where their propaganda contributed to war crimes and Syria – to give an honest assessment of the evolving situation. In tandem with new “humanitarian interventionist stars” like Samatha Powers and Susan Rice – liberal humanitarian interventists join hands – or is it fists? – with the John Boltons and Mike Pompeos of American politics. No U.S-orchestrated foreign intervention reflected this alliance more than the 2011 NATO inspired invasion and overthrow of the Khadaffi government in Libya, the tenth anniversary of which is upon us presently.
As the same commentator quoted above notes:
The U.S. and E.U. see a rising Ethiopia in Northeastern Africa. Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa with an estimated 70 per cent of the population under age 35. That population could propel Ethiopia into becoming an African economic powerhouse in a decade or so. Ethiopia, until the advent of COVID-19, had the “fastest growing economy in Sub-Saharan Africa”. Ethiopia is constructing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the largest in Africa, and could literally be the power house of Africa. Ethiopia is charting the course for genuine multiparty democracy in Africa which, if emulated by the rest of Africa, could usher a new era of popular accountability in Africa. Ethiopia is proving to be the anchor of regional peace and stability in the Horn of Africa.
Ethiopia is working to create a common market in the Horn region. What does all this mean? It means Ethiopia is a rising and shining African Giant. It means Ethiopia could be a mover and shaker in regional and African politics. It means the U.S. and E.U. have to deal with Ethiopia as an equal, not as a perennial beggar. These very ideas send shockwaves throughout the U.S. and E.U. neocolonial empire. The U.S. and E.U. want a weak, famine-stricken, ethnically fragmented vassal state in Ethiopia. That is why they are desperate to restore the TPLF regime. The U.S. and E.U. seek to put on the throne a comprador government in Ethiopia. They want a servile government that takes direct orders from them. They want a government that
jumps up and says, “how high?” when ordered to jump.
The notion that the “poor Tigres” of Ethiopia are being oppressed – puts reality on its head suggesting that the victim is the perpetrator of violence. Need to remember that the Tigre element in Ethiopian society ruled from 1991 when, in coalition, they overthrew the Marxist-led Dirge. The coaliton that came to power soon became a coalition in name only as the Tigre Popular Liberation Front (TFLP) consolidated its power, purging its coalition partners and ruling essentially unchallenged until April 2, 2018 when it was eased from power and from controlling the country’s increasing sources of wealth.
The political reforms instituted during TFLP rule included the weakening of the central government structures resulting in a political balkanization of the country’s varied ethnic communities in a manner that was structured to create the kind of tensions and problems that exist today. The 28 year period of Tigre rule was characterized as one of seething repression and neo-liberal economic (and political policies). During that time, complicating Ethiopia’s problems, the country’s military was used as Washington’s catpaw both to punish Eritrea for its refusal to submit to IMF/World Bank structural adjustment programs as well as sign on to AFRICOM and in the 2006 Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, itself emerging at the time as an independent political entity outside U.S. hegemonic control.
In the recent past, Washington has used Ethiopia as its military proxy. providing the United States with a needed cover – plausible deniability for Washington DC, which still is calling the shots. At Washington’s behest – and aid – using the now well-oiled pretext of “fighting terrorism”, in 2006, the then Bush Administration pressed Ethiopia into invading Somalia. According to the BBC, “The United Nations estimated that at least over 9,000 Ethiopian troops may be in the country while the AP suggests the number closer to 12–15,000. (I have seen other statistics stating that the size of the Ethiopian invading force was more than 20,000.)
Ethiopia’s invasion’s goal was to put an end to the rule of the Islamic Courts Union, a Somali coalition, admittedly with a religious slant – but which was the first to bring an era of stability to the instability that had wracked the country for decades. Fifteen years of political instability, war and incessant U.S. drone attacks from bases in Kenya have followed. The U.S. encouragement to use Ethiopian troops to further its geo-political goals in Africa is a classic example of a disturbing developing trend on the part of the U.S. to “partner” with African countries who provide the cannon fodder for U.S. imperial wars while providing Washington with the shield of “plausible deniability.”
Another aspect of Tigre rule often overlooked was the systematic looting of Ethiopian national wealth, with large amounts of laundered money and precious metals flowing out of the country into Tigre communities abroad, including here in the United States where it is laundered to give Tigre merchants an economic edge over other Ethiopian emigrees and used strategically to buy political influence.
Such is a short synopsis of the record of Tigre rule; It is not a pretty record, far from it. At the same time, during its time in power the TFLP was able to cultivate powerful elements in Washington, influence think tanks, the media in the United States (through the usual means) that have been all to ready parrot Tigre arguments, swallow Tigre propaganda cool aid and turn American public opinion against an increasingly beseiged Addis Ababa central government led by its current Prime Minister, Abey Ahmed.
Let us be clear.
It was the Tigre element – and not the Addis Ababa government – that provoked the violence by attacking a government military post provoking a decided Addis government military response. Had the Ethiopian central government not intervened forcefully, the situation could have easily escalated into one where the whole country was in danger of collapse. Plus the Tigre cause is far from innocent, little more than a power grab, a return to steering the Ethiopian ship of state at a critical moment in that Horn of Africa nation’s development. The Tigre goal is to either to destabilize the current Ethiopian government to such a degree that its plans for completing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will be frustrated, or failing that, to provide the basis for a future separation of the Tigre region from Ethiopia, thus partitioning the country. In this destabilization effort – a desperate, last ditch effort to return to control Ethiopia’s wealth and growing regional influence.
A new, more constructive Washington policy is needed. At the moment it is nowhere in sight.