“The use of illegal sanctions, whose effect falls most heavily on the poorest and most marginal sectors of society, to force political and economic change” is polarizing and undermines peace and stability.
Noam Chomsky, Danny Glover and others, March 2018
Aklog Birara (Dr)
In March 2018, Noam Chomsky, Danny Glover and 152 other activists wrote a compelling letter demanding the immediate rescinding of US and Canadian Government sanctions against Venezuela. This is not because they approved the regime; but because of the devastating effects of sanctions on “the poorest and most marginalized sectors of society.” They underscored the intent behind these sanctions. The intent was to “coerce political and economic change” in Venezuela. This demonstrates a consistent pattern in US foreign policy.
The core argument for sanctions regarding Ethiopia is almost the same, namely “abuse of human rights.” In Ethiopia’s case, the USA, and the EU singled out a specific ethnic group and a specific regional state, Tigrean-Ethiopians, and the Tigray Region as the victims.
I find the basis of punitive measure (s) against Ethiopia hypocritical and short-sighted for the following reasons:
- The TPLF inflicted much suffering and pain on every ethnic and faith group in Ethiopia, including Tigrean-Ethiopians for almost three decades. It plundered the Ethiopian economy and siphoned off for private and family use aid monies exceeding $30 billion Ironically, this stolen aid came from American taxpayers.
- Four years ago, David Steinman wrote a riveting opinion piece in Forbes entitled “Ethiopia’s Cruel Con Game.” I want to draw the attention of American policy and decision-makers as well as taxpayers to reflect again and again what happened to the aid monies Americans, including me, gave in support of the poor in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian poor lost. Who gained? It is TPLF family and friends and the lobbyists they bought to attack Ethiopia.
- Steinman said this: “Two numbers tell the story in a nutshell. The amount of American financial aid received by Ethiopia’s government since it took power: $30 billion;” and “The amount stolen by Ethiopia’s leaders since it took power: $30 billion. The latter figure is based on the UN’s own 2015 report on Illicit Financial Outflows by a panel chaired by former South African President Thabo Mbeki and another from Global Financial Integrity, an American think tank. These document $2-3 billion—an amount roughly equaling Ethiopia’s annual foreign aid and investment—being drained from the country every year, mostly through over- and under-invoicing of imports and exports.”
- This is what the TPLF dd. It committed economic crimes compounding this abominable act with crimes against humanity.
- The Federal Government of Ethiopia tried to meet its responsibility to the Ethiopian people, including Tigrean Ethiopians when it responded to treason and atrocities committed by the TPLF in November last year. This is the root cause of the humanitarian crisis in Tigray, that is either understated or completely ignored by the Western media, the G-7, and deliberations in the UN Security Council. If the underlying defense for measures against Ethiopia is the abuse of power resulting in the current humanitarian crisis, then the crimes committed by the TPLF when it was in power far exceed anything that occurred in Tigray. But the crime was never reported by the Western media. For example, Genocide Watch documented atrocities committed by the TPLF against the Annuak in Gambella. Amnesty International, the UN high Commission for Human Rights and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission documented the massacre of 1,500 innocent civilians, the majority Amhara and day laborers in Mai Kadra by the TPLF.
- Sudan, with the collusion of Egypt, invaded Ethiopia unprovoked; and annexed large tracts of Ethiopian lands at a time when Ethiopian Defense Forces were preoccupied in Tigray. This unprovoked invasion did not outrage the US, the EU or the UN Security Council dominated by the US.
- I find it hypocritical that Western democracies led by the USA, did in fact reward Sudan handsomely. The US removed Sudan’s designation as a terrorist state once it recognized the State of Israel. This action enabled Sudan to be eligible for the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC).
- Sudan benefitted multifold: a) Its arrears to the World Bank and the African Development Bank were cleared. b) The President of the World Bank announced that Sudan will now be eligible to access $2 billion in IDA credits, the World Bank. c) The IMF plans to start an extended credit facility for Sudan. This new financing will support health, education, infrastructure, and other sectors.
- With a stroke of a pen, the Government of the United States erased Sudan’s status as a terrorist state; cleared its arrears; enabled Sudan to access investment capital from multilaterals; and emboldened it to take aggressive military actions against Ethiopia. Sudan’s overall debt has been reduced by $50 billion. How does the West justify this act while reducing aid to Ethiopia?
My contention is not that Sudan that shares a 1,600 kilometers border with Ethiopia does not deserve to be supported. Rather, it is the lack of parity in treatment concerning Ethiopia that I find hypocritical, disturbing, and dangerous.
Why are the goal posts moving constantly in the narrative on the Tigray crisis?
This leads me to the issue of sanctions against and incessant pressures on Ethiopia. My optimist side tells me that Western democracies will not do more harm and will ultimately rescind the sanction against a pillar of Black Africa. Fair and equitable treatment is good business.
At the conclusion of the Carbis G-7 Summit, the communique released on June 13, 2021, stated the following on the Tigray, Ethiopia crisis.
- “We are deeply concerned by the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and reports of an unfolding major humanitarian tragedy, including potentially hundreds of thousands in famine conditions. We condemn ongoing atrocities, including widespread sexual violence, and we welcome the ongoing Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) investigations and call for full accountability for reported human rights violations in Tigray and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. We call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, unimpeded humanitarian access to all areas and the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean forces. We urge all parties to pursue a credible political process, which is the only solution to the crisis. We further call upon Ethiopia’s leaders to advance a broader inclusive political process to foster national reconciliation and consensus toward a future based on respect for the human and political rights of all Ethiopians.”
It would have been prudent to include the unparalleled effort being made by the Government of Ethiopia, the work that the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission is doing in partnership with OHCHR, the measures undertaken by the Ethiopian Attorney General to bring culprits to justice etc. This issue must be treated as a domestic crisis for which the international community led by the G-7 countries must assist and not dictate. It is Ethiopia’s agenda, period.
Although not measured or balanced, the communique is not harsh. There is still a push by the Biden Africa and UN team for a UN Security Council deliberation. We must do all we can to prevent a hearing; and we must urge Ethiopia’s friends, China, Russia, and other members of the Council to veto any harsh measure.
The current US sanction, the halting of aid from the EU and from multilateral organizations show anger and frustration across the spectrum of Ethiopians within and outside. Prolonging the agony might:
- Induce deeper and indelible animosity throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and gradually within the African American community.
- The sanction and continued pressure on Ethiopia will no doubt embolden TPLF remnants, jihadists, terrorist groups and secessionists.
- Sadly, Tigrean-Ethiopians who are already victims of TPLF’s war and terrorist acts will be identified as scapegoats and sell-outs. When supporters of the TPLF hold posters that say that they too are “the junta,” it demonstrates that US, EU and G-7 edicts prolong Ethiopia’s agony.
The G-7 narrative on the Tigray humanitarian crisis has not yet changed. I find it unconscionable that Western media is privy to lies, misleading, and relentless narratives on Tigray. In the first months, it was ethnic cleansing, genocide and other crimes against humanity, the use of chemical weapons on innocent civilians and the plethora of accusations singling out the Federal Government of Ethiopia for misdeeds. Then, Eritrean troops and Amhara Special Forces were singled out. Today, it is impending famine that is reminiscent of the ‘Great Famine’ from 1983 to 1985 in which an estimated 1.2 million died; and 400,000 refugees left the country. Two and half million people were internally displaced.
I do not accept the new doomsday narrative of an impending famine in Tigray. If it happens, the remedy is neither sanction nor other pressure on Ethiopia. What is needed to avert famine now is the infusion of massive humanitarian aid targeted at the most vulnerable population. The Government of Ethiopia is doing its part. The G-7 and UN Specialized agencies must do theirs.
I welcome the decision of USAID led by Professor Samantha Power, author of the doctrine “the responsibility to protect” who announced the provision of $181 million in humanitarian aid. This provision will support an estimated 5.2 million Tigrean-Ethiopians. I urge the European Union, Japan, and other members of the G-7 to supplement this with an equal amount. The priority for the international community in general and rich nations that belong to the G-7 must be to avert famine at all costs. It is self-interest that drives this. A peaceful world is good for business too.
What can Ethiopians within and outside the country do to mitigate risks?
- The first and foremost priority is to recognize the imperative of self-reliance.
- Self-reliance is possible through national unity: think beyond ethnicity and faith; at stake is Ethiopia’s survival. Fragmentation is a disservice to Ethiopia and to the Ethiopian people.
- The Federal Government of Ethiopia must do all within its means to dismantle terrorism, jihadism, extremism, and ethno-nationalism; and to defend the safety and security of all Ethiopians wherever they live and work.
- Ethiopians must speak with the same voice regarding the second filling as well as the financing and completion of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
- Ethiopians, including the Federal Government of Ethiopia must mend the broken and disastrous Public Relations and Public Diplomacy battle; Ethiopians must focus on cultivating friends of Ethiopia in the United States, Canada, Australia, across Europe, Africa, the Caribbean etc.
- Ethiopians speaking to other Ethiopians alone does not serve Ethiopia. Change the paradigm of thinking, move outside the box and your comfort zone.
- Ethiopians across the USA and Europe must educate the public, the media as well as policy and decision-makers that applying sanctions against Ethiopia harms the poorest of the poor and the most marginalized. It also undermines the long-terms interests of the USA and Western democracies. The American people must know what the Biden African Team is doing.
- I propose that Ethiopians in the Diaspora contribute a minimum of $50 per month per capita and designate the project, such as the GERD and other job generating and productive projects in Ethiopia that they feel offer hope and do this on a sustainable basis. I also request that each Ethiopian remitter cease using the Black Market to remit funds to Ethiopia. I will start my contribution; so, join me without delay. The latest estimate of remittances to Ethiopia is more than $5 billion per annum. This is more than aid and FDI combined.
- Officials of the Federal Government of Ethiopia need to listen to members of committed Diaspora members. The Government of Ethiopia must come up with a forward-looking foreign relations strategy and road map. The Government must also clean house and appoint the most competent and committed diplomats in every diplomatic post. Staffing is critical.
- The Ethiopian Diaspora in the USA must begin to reach out to Republican members of the Senate and Congress; and to the conservative media including Fox. It may be prudent to ask a selected few to visit Ethiopia at the earliest opportunity. I commend Senator Inhofe for paving the way.
- Ethiopian associations, intellectuals and others must stop operating in silos. It is time to reach out to one another and operate from the same script and for the same agenda: Saving Ethiopia and serving all the Ethiopian people.
- Ethiopians in the USA must initiate a grassroots movement to rescind the sanction at the earliest possibility. This is the top most priority for us now.
Ethiopia shall prevail!!!!
June 13, 20211
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