Washington Update – by Mesfin Mekonen
December 16, 2022
An undeserved Christmas gift
The Biden administration gave Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy an undeserved early Christmas gift this week, conferring legitimacy on him and his government by inviting him to attend a summit of African leaders in Washington and granting him a meeting with Secretary of State Blinken.
In remarks about the U.S. approach to Africa, President Joe Biden emphasized “the core values that unite our people — all our people, especially young people: freedom, opportunity, transparency, good governance.” The White House declined to respond to questions from reporters who pointed out that under Abiy, those values are under assault in Ethiopia.
Throwing gasoline onto the fire
The Biden administration’s embrace of Abiy and its celebration of the ceasefire in Tigray is making a terrible situation worse. This is because the administration is ignoring the violence – killings, rapes, torture, destruction of property – in other parts of Ethiopia. Amhara populations are being attacked with impunity by Oromo forces, including some that are aligned with Abiy’s government. Government-imposed news blackouts, including cutting off Internet and cell phone communications, make it impossible to determine the total number of deaths, but scores of killings of innocent Amhara people have been documented this month. The U.S. government’s conscious decision to avert its gaze from these atrocities is reminiscent of the world’s failure to speak out about and attempt to deter the genocide in Rwanda.
The future of Ethiopia
The future of Ethiopia as a state, the lives and livelihoods of 120 million Ethiopians, are at risk. Rather than celebrate a dictator for taking half-measures to stop the conflict in Tigray, the world should come together to demand a transition to real democracy in Ethiopia. Instead of looking away when innocents are being slaughtered, the U.S. and EU should pressure Abiy to stop the killing. And rather than reward brazen corruption, international assistance should be channeled through trustworthy organizations that are seeking to benefit the Ethiopian people.