Dr. Aklog Birara
Part 17 of 20
“Economic sanctions are increasingly being used to promote the full range of American foreign policy objectives. Yet all too often sanctions turn out to be little more than expressions of U.S. preferences that hurt American economic interests without changing the target’s behavior for the better.” Brookings POLICY BRIEF #34, June 1, 1998
“Modern-day economic sanctions and blockades are comparable with medieval sieges of towns with the intention of forcing them to surrender. Twenty-first century sanctions attempt to bring not just a town, but sovereign countries to their knees. A difference, perhaps, is that twenty-first century sanctions are accompanied by the manipulation of public opinion through ‘fake news’, aggressive public relations, and a pseudo-human rights rhetoric, to give the impression that a human rights ‘end’ justifies the criminal means.” Alfred de Zayas, UN Human Rights Council Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order.
The US normalized sanctions to enforce submission. It sanctioned Haiti, Russia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. These sanction that harm ordinary citizens most and contribute to the rise of authoritarianism and terrorism take hold without protest from members of the UN General Assembly let alone the UN Security Council where the US plays an imperial role.
Punitive sanctions do not buy friends for the American people. Rarely if ever do sanctions promote peace, respect for human rights or democratic governance. Studies show that recurrent use of sanctions to advance US foreign policy interests is, in the words of Brookings, “Too much of a bad thing.”
When the USA and the EU impose sanctions on Ethiopia and Eritrea in favor of an insurgency like the TPLF, these tools diminish the prospect of durable peace in the entire Horn and Eastern Africa. They undermine Ethiopia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, the unity of the country’s diverse population and degrade Ethiopia’s determination to eradicate poverty and accelerate sustainable development.
It is contradictory to impose undue diplomatic pressure and imply more punitive sanctions on sovereign Ethiopia; and claim these are being done to advance human security, peace and stability.
Whose “peace” agenda is it anyway?
The Ethiopian people deserve peace. The Government of the United States, the EU and the rest of the international community can and must do what they can to support Ethiopia that is fighting the terrorist and treasonous TPLF and its enablers. Rhetoric aside, this is not happening.
I am sure you are as baffled as I am by the modalities, events, and media coverage of the mediation for “peace in Ethiopia” in South Africa. The prominence of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is concerning. His proactive engagement gives the unmistaken impression that, the US is not just an observer; but a “mover and shaker” of the “peace” process. This leads me to pose the following questions:
- Is it an Ethiopian or American agenda?
- Why is the US no longer an impartial observer like IGAD but a huge presence directing the process and inevitably influencing the outcome itself?
- Why did Secretary Blinken call or meet with foreign leaders: Kenya, South Africa, the UAE, Canada; and what motivated him to place a call to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed?
- What is behind the undue pressure on Ethiopia and for whose benefit?
It is critical to remember that US Secretary of State Blinken acknowledged TPLF instigated the third war on August 24, 2022. All told, TPLF is responsible and accountable for the deaths of more than 500,000 Tigrean-Ethiopians and tens of thousands of non-Tigrean civilians. TPLF forced Ethiopia’s National Defense and coalition forces to defend the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity as well as the safety and security of all Ethiopians including Tigreans. This responsibility to defend Ethiopia is enshrined in the UN Charter and covenants of the African Union.
So, the Ethiopian Federal Government position, namely, for peace to occur, TPLF must disarm is unassailable. There cannot be two military establishments (armies) in the same country. By all credible accounts, Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) have taken control of much of Tigray and are closing in on Mekele, the regional capital. ENDF surgical operations spared lives, institutions, and landmarks. ENDF has begun rebuilding roads, bridges and other physical and economic infrastructure destroyed or damaged by TPLF deliberately.
All indicators on the ground show positive developments. I believe, the sooner TPLF gives up arms and surrenders; the sooner the restoration, rehabilitation, and the opening of all services process—banking, telecom, electricity, trade, and the like will begin. Tigrean Ethiopians and the rest deserve to see this happen.
The military game is over
By all accounts, including Western pro-TPLF champions Rene’ Lefort, Martin Plaut, Alex de Waal the TPLF military machine is degraded. Thousands of TPLF military officers and combatants have surrendered. Reliable sources say TPLF is ready to surrender. So, the US, EU, UN, and AU must take this remarkable development into account.
I commend South Africa for hosting the mediation for “peace” in Ethiopia.
Discussions for peace that started on October 22, 2022 involve the Federal Government of Ethiopia and the leadership of insurgent TPLF. In line with the doctrine of “solving African problems by Africans,” former President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo is appointed by the AU to lead the three-person Africa team. This team must be allowed to do its job without undue pressure or interference from the US or the EU or Egypt or any external power.
Just last weekend, one million Ethiopians demonstrated in Addis Ababa and hundreds of thousands in major cities throughout Ethiopia supporting the ENDF and urging the US not to interfere in Ethiopia’s domestic affairs. Their voices matter. The West cannot afford to dismiss them. Their voice underscores the depth and breadth of hatred for TPLF that caused the mayhem, including the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Tigrean Ethiopians.
By his utterances and his fearful insinuations against Ethiopia, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken deepens the crisis. As mentioned earlier, Secretary Blinken called the President of Kenya, the Foreign Minister of South Africa, the head of the UAE and the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. He met with Musa Faki Muhammad, Chairperson of the African Union in Canada.
What is the US demanding?
- Blinken wants the Ethiopian army to leave Tigray, implying Tigray is not a core part of Ethiopia.
Tigray is an integral part of Ethiopia. This demand is gross interference in the domestic affairs of an independent African state. It undermines Ethiopia’s territorial integrity. This call is unreasonable and unacceptable. The goal is to save the TPLF, an American lackey.
- Blinken wants Eritrea out of Ethiopia, He demands that Eritrea and Ethiopia must stop cooperating in the war against TPLF.
Ethiopia’s relations with Eritrea or any other country is not America’s business. Neither Ethiopia nor Eritrea is an American colony. They are independent states attacked by the TPLF. both countries have the right to defend themselves.
It saddens me to note that, instead of respecting Ethiopia’s sovereign rights and instead of demanding TPLF gives up armed insurgency, the USA is forcing Ethiopia to halt military operations as a precondition for peace; agree to US pressure or face severe sanctions.
US relentless pressure and threat of more sanctions on Ethiopia is pushing Africa’s “Motherland” to cave in, abandon its celebrated independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity or defy submission. In effect, the USA is forcing Ethiopia to reconsider its relations with the West in general, especially with the USA. This is tragic and consequential. History will judge the Government of the US harshly.
- Blinken has politicized and compromised the mediation for “peace” process.
It is my considered opinion that the peace process is no longer an Ethiopian agenda. It is a US Government agenda. I am convinced Ethiopia will win the war. I am at the same time fearful of the dire consequences, including severance of relations that might follow if Ethiopia does not do what the US wants.
Nothing has united the Ethiopian people better as have two major developments over the past decade: a) The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) that is on the verge of completion and b) The war against the terrorist and treasonous TPLF and its foreign enablers that Ethiopia is winning on the war front. Both show national resolve and determination against formidable odds. Ethiopia has prevailed on both fronts.
I shall conclude this commentary by commending a friend of Ethiopia, Graham Peebles. In his timely Op-ed “A Loud and Clear Lesson – For Ethiopia and the World” on October 28, 2022, he reminds the West:
“First things first: as I write so-called peace talks are underway between the democratically elected government of Ethiopia and The Terrorist TPLF. That in itself is a bizarre sentence, and prompts an array of related questions, and issues around law and order, justice, national governance. To be clear, the TPLF have never wanted peace, and are not in South Africa to find a way to end the conflict that they started and perpetuated for two long and deeply painful years. They want power, they have engaged in talks because they have been defeated, but talks about what?
Holding hands with the TPLF men at, or more likely, under the table — out of sight — are US/UN ‘observers. The reason for their attendance is, one assumes, to ensure TPLF bosses are kept out of prison and allowed to slip away in the night and find amnesty somewhere. Canada has been mentioned as a possible destination, although why the Canadians (or anyone else in fact) would want them is a mystery. A cell in the Hague would be my choice as they eke out their days waiting to be tried in the International Criminal Court.”
There is no plausible moral or ethical or human rights argument I can find for the Government of the United States to defend and save a terrorist and treasonous group that sent tens of thousands of Tigrean child soldiers to their deaths.
I urge the Biden Administration to stop gross interference in the domestic affairs of one of the most important countries in Africa, Ethiopia. It is in America’s self interest to abandon TPLF now and side with Ethiopia and its 120 million citizens.
Ethiopia Shall Prevail!!!
October 28, 2022