Aklog Birara (Dr)
“The Ethiopia conflict has evoked a specific response pattern by the ‘international community, primarily the United States of America (USA), the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN): they address, or rather ‘target’, the Ethiopian government and not the insurgent TPLF which has caused most of the killing and destruction.”
Dr. Benjamin Ujumadu, the Guardian, December 29, 2021
It is gratifying to see that, for the first time in the past 13 months, the truth about the genesis of the conflict in Ethiopia started deliberately and systematically by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has begun to unravel. Reuters, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Foreign Policy, the Guardian and even the Washington Post are among Western entities with courage in revealing atrocities committed by the TPLF since June 2021. Western Governments led by the USA ought to follow suit.
Stop the camouflage and do the right thing
I know Joe Biden is a decent and honorable President. He honestly believes in advancing human freedom, human rights, the rule of law, “treatment of each person with honor and dignity”, access to opportunities for all and good governance.” These are the reasons why the United States serves as a magnet for tens of millions across the globe.
When it comes to the conflict in Ethiopia started deliberately and systematically by the TPLF, the Government of the United States is failing the American people. Relations between the USA and Ethiopia that span 118 years are at an all time low. It is not for the lack of credible information on the ground.
Documentary evidence shows that the Government of the United States, member governments of the EU and the UN Secretariat have worked and continue to run in synch with the TPLF that the USA had designated as a “terrorist group.” I find no evidence that the TPLF has changed for the better. On the contrary, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Globe and Mail of Canada, Reuters and others reveal the horrific attributes of the TPLF. You cannot heal a patient that refuses to accept the right remedy.
The Biden Administration must reassess its assessments of the situation on the ground; and change its policy towards Ethiopia in the New Year. It must do the right thing and restore relations between the USA and Ethiopia. I am deeply concerned that a pro-TPLF position will result in irreparable damage for both countries.
Contrary to the diagnosis and policy prescriptions offered by the TPLF and its foreign backers, the TPLF has a proven history for massive human rights violations while in power for 27 years. It degraded human freedom, human rights, and undermined democracy. It captured Ethiopia’s superstructure and infrastructure and denied access to opportunities to its perceived “enemies.” This is the reason the Amhara region is the poorest in Ethiopia.
It is virtually impossible for me to imagine a prosperous and non-conflict prone Ethiopian society in which elites define access to opportunities by ethnicity or faith rather than merit. A selected group that constitutes the core leadership of the TPLF became millionaires and billionaires over night because of the capture of the political system by the TPLF. The TPLF represents a minority ethnic group.
Evidence over the past thirteen months shows that the Government of the United States, the EU and the UN Secretariat ignored gross human rights violations, rape, extrajudicial killings and genocide perpetrated by the TPLF when it was in power for almost thirty years. For example, it committed genocide of Annuak, Somali, Oromo, and Amhara Ethiopians. It annexed huge tracts of land from the Amhara region and incorporated them into Tigray. This economic crime denied indigenous people the natural resources they need to survive.
The TPLF enjoys impunity
I will set aside the policy and structural hurdles that the Amhara population faces because of unjust governance. The West led by the US must ask why the Tigray region is still unable to feed itself. The TPLF did not use foreign aid and alleviate abject poverty in Tigray. The Government of the United States, members of the EU and the UN Secretariat allowed the TPLF to steal aid monies and run. There was no accountability to speak of.
The TPLF bankrupted the Ethiopian economy. It siphoned off tens of billions of dollars. The TPLF stole or captured almost all-American aid. Its core leaders and their immediate families are among the richest in the world. TPLF families live prosperous and safe lives abroad while TPLF leadership requires that poor Tigrean mothers supply their children for a “peoples war” that has lost social meaning. The West led by the USA failed to ask the question of “Why the TPLF was unable to break abject poverty in its own regional state of Tigray? Why did the TPLF revert to war rather than the search for durable peace?”
The West led by the USA knows that the TPLF made matters worse by committing treason on November 3, 2020. It expanded the war to the Afar and Amhara regions. It vowed to disintegrate Ethiopia. The TPLF committed war crimes in Mai Kadra and Mai Kadra like massacres in numerous places in the Afar and Amhara regions since June 2021. Why did Western media, the Government of the US, members of the EU and the UN Secretariat warn the international community that Ethiopia was on the verge of collapse?
Is evacuating Americans from Ethiopia the right signal?
I do not believe that US Government call to evacuate American citizens from Ethiopia herald good stewardship of global leadership and diplomacy. It is alarmist. It devalues the unparalleled history of the Ethiopian people for peaceful coexistence. Most Ethiopian feel rightly this alarmist call by the Government of the US proves its affinity to the TPLF.
The unprecedented “Home coming” of tens of thousands of persons of Ethiopian origin from across the globe to Ethiopia welcoming the new Ethiopian X-Mas shows the level of commitment, determination, and affinity among Ethiopians for their ancestral land. This itself is a signal that the West led by the USA cannot afford to ignore.
Where can one find such an exodus for the right cause?
Emboldening the TPLF caused incalculable damages
The adverse social, economic and political consequences of TPLF’ s war of revenge is beyond anyone’s imagination. I estimate that the economic damage alone is close to 10 percent of Ethiopia’s GDP. The human atrocities committed against the Amhara population are far worse and irreplaceable. War crimes against humanity and economic crimes against Ethiopian society require accountability.
- In welcoming the New Year, I urge the Government of the United States to do the right thing concerning Ethiopia. It can restore faith and confidence in the international system led by the US by demanding that the TPLF and its domestic and foreign allies stop insurgency at once and unconditionally.
- The Government of the US can restore faith and confidence in the international system by initiating and sponsoringa UNDP or World Bank or African Development Bank or African Economic Commission led financial program and rebuild TPLF destroyed physical, social, and economic infrastructure in all affected regions. I am not asking for a “Marshall Plan” but a mini rehabilitation and reconstruction plan that complements the huge mobilization efforts started by Ethiopians within the country and those from abroad.
- The Government of the US can restore faith and confidence in America’s leadership by disavowing and renouncing all forms of terrorism, extremism, ethno-nationalism without equivocating.
- The Government of the US can rejuvenate US and Ethiopian relations by acknowledging the democratically elected Government of Ethiopia and by engaging directly with it; and not through third parties. Why does Secretary Blinken go to Senegal or Kenya on a matter that affects Ethiopia? Why does Mr. Feltman, US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, go on a mission to Turkey, the UAE, or any other country to discuss Ethiopia? Is not openness and direct consultation a hallmark of American foreign policy?
- Finally, I wish and pray in this New Year that President Joe Biden poses hard questionsto his close advisors on Ethiopia. The TPLF of 2021 is not facing the same conditions in Ethiopia today that if faced in 1991. Most Ethiopians reject the TPLF. There is no chance whatsoever for the TPLF to rule and exploit Ethiopia again. There will not be peaceful coexistence even if Tigray secedes from Ethiopia. The question I shall pose is this: “Why are President Biden’s close advisors allowed by the American people and their Government to support the TPLF that has no chance of winning; but is prolonging the sufferings and agonies of all of the Ethiopian people? Who are the persons responsible for America’s potential loss of a credible and dependable ally in one of the most important corners of the world, the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea?
Looking ahead, I believe that the only way out of the mayhem is the pursuit of relentless and all-inclusive dialogue for peace, national consensus, and national reconciliation in Ethiopia. The Commission announced by Ethiopia offers a promising start. It is only a start.
The Government of the US, members of the EU, the UN Secretariat and the African Union must do all they can by supplying financial and technical support to the Commission so that it can achieve its primary goal: an Ethiopian society beyond ethnic polarization.
Ultimately, it is Ethiopians who must be in the driver’s seat.
December 31, 2021