Thu, Mar 31, 9:45 PM (2 days ago)
I would like to draw your attention to a letter initiated by a good friend of Ethiopia and Ethiopians. The writer worked on Ethiopia and knew Ethiopian institutions and officials. The target audience are US Legislators and the American people. This letter was released on March 31, 2022.
I urge those of us who work and live in the United States to use this letter aa a template and urge American friends and acquaintances to approach their representatives in the US Congress. Ethiopian Americans persuading their own peers alone is inadequate. There are tens of thousands of Americans, including ex-Peace Corps Volunteers who support Ethiopia and the Ethiopian people. This group is a treasure trove we have yet to persuade and deploy. But we need to reach out to them; empower them; and urge them to do the right thing. The right thing is to write letters to Senators in Congress.
Below is the letter I am flagging to you. The author has given us permission to modify it to suit your needs.
It has been quite some time since I wrote you about Ethiopia.
First, there have been two recent positive developments.
Ethiopian Government troops and TPLF soldiers had fought to a stalemate in the latter part of 2021. Most recently, on March 24th, 2022, the Government of Ethiopia issued a declaration to stop fighting and give peace and reconciliation a chance. In this declaration, Prime Minister Abiy called for “an indefinite humanitarian truce” to allow access to aid for civilians in Tigray. The following day, TPLF rebels agreed to this cessation of hostilities after seventeen months of war.
Secondly, the Ethiopian National Dialogue Commission for Peace, Reconciliation and Consensus was established in January 2022 and has just begun its work. This Commission is absolutely essential if there is ever to be peace in the country.
Regardless of these two promising steps, the US Congress has been working since November to write legislation that would involve the US in Ethiopia’s future in a most dangerous and potentially very destructive way. The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee just voted to send Senate Bill S-3199 forward to the full Senate for a vote. The bill is called the Ethiopia Peace and Democracy Act and its lead sponsor is Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who’s the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It is co-sponsored by Senators James Risch (R-Idaho), the ranking member, Christopher Coons (D-Delaware) and Thomas Tillis (R-North Carolina).
This bill would make matters in Ethiopia much worse just at a time when the ceasefire and creation of the National Dialogue Commission are rays of hope.
The bill proposes imposition of very punitive sanctions by the Government of the US on the Government of Ethiopia which will affect the Ethiopian people most severely.
By this letter, I am asking you most fervently to write to your two senators urging them to reject this bill and also to write to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair and lead sponsor of this bill, Senator Menendez who is a huge supporter of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the group that ruled Ethiopia as corrupt autocrats for 27 years and were driven from power in 2018 by mass demonstrations by ordinary Ethiopians. The TPLF, precipitated the crisis that has killed so many innocent Ethiopians by attacking a federal military installation in Mekele, Tigray Province in November, 2020, killing soldiers and stealing weapons. This precipitated the military response by the Government of Ethiopia and the bloody conflict that followed.
TPLF supporters are elated that this bill has been voted positively out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and sent to the full Senate for a vote. Tragically, I think that during the 27 years of TPLF rule, they ingratiated themselves with many key people in the US Government and the US Congress. The TPLF helped the US in its work to contain terrorists in Somalia. The US was very grateful for that and looked the other way while the TPLF repressed Ethiopians (human rights abuses, jailing of journalists and activists, manipulation of elections — the TPLF held 90 per cent of the seats in Parliament). Moreover, through the creation of the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT), the TPLF/EPRDF diverted significant resources and international aid to Tigray. This resulted in disproportionate economic growth and development in Tigray as compared with other provinces. Tigray also annexed fertile lands from the neighboring regions of Gondar and Wollo. TPLF leadership was finally removed by the EPRDF following the mass demonstrations in 2018.
First, in terms of preparing a letter to your senators, please consider the following.
I am attaching a brief paper by Dr. Aklog Birara, a friend and scholar on Ethiopia. He lists the reasons for rejecting this Senate bill. Below are a few of them:
First, it would place the terrorist TPLF, the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) and Oromo Liberation Front/Shane (who are aligned with the TPLF) on par with the elected government of Ethiopia.
It would degrade Ethiopia’s national security and exacerbate human insecurity and instability in Ethiopia and throughout the Horn of Africa.
It would empower and embolden terrorists, jihadists, and secessionists.
It would eliminate Ethiopia’s access to capital markets and to receive loans and credits from multinational financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank.
In terms of the national security of the United States, itself, this bill would likely drive the Ethiopian Government further into the arms of the Chinese who are already very active in providing important infrastructure and other kinds of assistance in Ethiopia. Further Chinese incursion into Ethiopia, the greater Horn of Africa and other African countries is President Biden’s greatest concern.
Regarding a letter that I am asking you to write to Senator Menendez, the lead sponsor of this bill and an enthusiastic supporter of the TPLF, below are key points some of which you may want to include regarding the behavior of the TPLF and why they are such a danger in regard to the future of Ethiopia.
The TPLF was the predominant force in the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Defense Force (EPRDF) that ruled Ethiopia from 1991 till 2018, with ongoing aid from the US Government. The TPLF oversaw 27 years of repression (human rights abuses, jailing of journalists and activists, manipulation of elections, etc.). The TPLF held 90 per cent of the seats in Parliament. Moreover, through the creation of the
Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT), the TPLF/EPRDF diverted significant resources and international aid to Tigray. This resulted in disproportionate economic growth and development in Tigray as compared with other provinces. Tigray also annexed fertile lands from the neighboring regions of Gondar and Wollo.
An important paper (“Abusing Self-Determination and Democracy: How the TPLF is Looting Ethiopia”), written by Matthew McCracken of the Case Western University School of Law in 2004 details what the TPLF were doing. McCracken also describes the “Republic of Greater Tigray”, a manifesto written by TPLF leaders in 1976 through which Tigray planned to expand its borders within Ethiopia, acquire coastal lands within Eritrea and then secede as an independent nation. They abandoned this plan to secede in the early 1980s due to lack of support in Tigray. Nevertheless, when Ethiopia’s Constitution was ratified in 1994, it contained Article 39 that gave the right of secession to all ethnic groups. These groups were formed into regions with Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa as administrative centers that were accountable to the federal government. The Constitution has promoted ethnic polarization and, ultimately, can only lead to the disintegration of the country.
Because of the mass demonstrations, the EPRDF named Abiy as the new prime minister. He took office in 2018. He pursued reforms which the TPLF resisted. He liberalized politics, created a new Prosperity Party and removed TPLF government leaders accused of corruption and repression. He also signed a peace agreement with Eritrea which had fought a two-war with Ethiopia from 1998 to 2000. That war was initiated by a TPLF-led Ethiopia over a border dispute that cost tens of thousands of lives. (Tigray borders Eritrea.) Abiy won the Nobel Peace Prize for this achievement. Most Ethiopians – especially the youth who were very active in protests the TPLF/EPRDF regime — were very encouraged by these events.
The TPLF accused Abiy of centralizing power and destroying the federal, ethnically based system. Elections were postponed by Abiy because of the pandemic but the TPLF defied the central government and held its own regional election. The central government said the TPLF election was illegal, suspended funds for Tigray and cut ties with the TPLF. On May 6th, the Ethiopian Council of Ministers approved a parliamentary resolution designating the TPLF as a terrorist organization. This followed many attacks on civilians by the TPLF in various parts of the country to reverse the reforms of the previous three years.
After the current conflict began in Tigray in November 2020, the TPLF took the fighting outside the border of Tigray into the Amhara and Afar states, have killed many people in these areas, raped women and destroyed schools and medical centers. All this has barely been reported on by the Western press.
Other ethnically-based groups have also killed civilians – in December 2020, the Beni-Shangul Gumuz Liberation Front killed at least 200 Amhara, Oromo, Shinasa, Agaw and other ethnic minorities in the Beni-Shangul Gumuz region near the border with Sudan. The OLA, a military splinter group from the Oromo Liberation Movement, killed civilians and caused destruction in Oromia. Following the lead of the TPLF, these other groups are killing civilians from different ethnic groups in order to take land and gain more power. As the legal scholars warned when the 1994 Constitution was adopted, which included Article 39, it has made it too easy for the country to break apart.
There is no military solution to this crisis. This is why the all-inclusive national dialogue for peace and reconciliation that has just begun its work is so important. In addition, as Dr. Birara urges, “The current Ethiopian Parliament must be courageous enough to change the current constitution and the administrative system that pits one ethnic group against another.” Dr. Kassahun Melesse, another Ethiopian scholar, writing on June 6th, 2021 in “Ethiopia Insight”, an online journal, recommended that a reformed Constitution must take away the right of secession, organize the country on the basis of administrative and economic efficiency, not ethnicity, and repeal veto power of regional states along with other recommendations.
Many thanks for reading this letter. I apologize for its length — it’s a complicated issue and I feel compelled to explain it. I would be most grateful if you would write your senators and Senator Menendez. “
Signature deleted by me.