Aklog Birara (Dr)
October 3, 2021
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
The Holy Bible
My thesis is that the Government of the United States under President Joe Biden has already targeted; and is determined to singularly punish the Federal Governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea as well as the leaders of the Amhara region. It tangled the culprits together by including the TPLF for the international optics of projecting a statesman like image for the USA.
I genuinely believe, however, President Joe Biden, whose moral and ethical values I admire, may not know the truth and the whole truth on the ground. If he knew the whole truth, I believe that his tendency will be towards the moral compass of “peacemaking” and supporting Ethiopia, rather than the dangerous path of conflict inducing by supporting a terrorist group, the TPLF. The hurdle I see is that Ethiopians like me do not have access to the President or to those around him to whom we can share evidence concerning the TPLF and to explain with passion and evidence why the TPLF is inimical to the interests of the American people as well as to Ethiopia.
Against this caveat, I strongly urge the people of the United States and President Joe Biden not to degrade US and Ethiopian relations. The strategic importance of Ethiopia to the United States as well as to the entire African continent—its geographical location in the Horn of Africa affecting and influencing the Red Sea that an American military officer called “The Interstate-95 of the Planet,” the Bab al-Mandab corridor where superpower rivalry for naval space is intense, and the Blue Nile River where Egypt and Sudan are conducting proxy wars against Ethiopia—cannot be underestimated.
In brief, beyond the immensely costly war domestic war initiated by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), Ethiopia is currently at play in the “New Cold War” with far reaching consequences. In my assessment, the Government of the United States must be careful not to guide and govern its foreign policy towards Ethiopia with a narrow pro-TPLF lens. The TPLF is done. It can never ever rule Ethiopia. It committed treason after all.
In the aftermath of the Afghanistan war and US departure after 20 years, the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, General Stavridis drew lessons of experience in Time Magazine. “We must learn and understand the history, culture and language of any country in which we seek to intervene—be that militarily or economically. In Afghanistan, we failed to fully do so, and our hubris and arrogance did not serve us well…. And the endemic corruption on the part of the Afghan Government at every level was debilitating.”
The Ethiopian people ejected the TPLF from power through peaceful protest not because the TPLF was Tigrean. It is because the TPLF was treacherous and treasonous, cruel, brutal, barbaric, asinine, arrogant, and incurably corrupt. It emptied Ethiopia’s coffers. It betrayed public trust by abandoning Ethiopia’s sea coast etc. It continues to undermine Ethiopia by serving in the proxy war by Egypt and Sudan etc. It is therefore not in America’s long term strategic or market interest to continue tacit or direct support to the TPLF.
Beware of unintended consequences
The unintended consequences might prove to be immense. For example, gross interference in the domestic affairs of Ethiopia demonstrates lack of knowledge and understanding of the “history, culture and language” as sell as the psychological make of the Ethiopian people. It is a violation of the UN Charter. Poverty and dependency on foreign aid must not diminish or belittle the potential for the rise of immense and unstoppable Ethiopian nationalism when faced with external pressure and intimidation. The US should be careful not to make another mistake, this time in Black Africa.
In this connection, Pavan Kulkarni’s assessment of President Joe Biden’s Executive Order of September 17, 2021, in Peoples Dispatch under the title “AS US Sanctions Loom Over Ethiopia, who is the Target?” is a must read. It offers a counter view; and a fair and balanced assessment of the conflict in Ethiopia that the Western media distorted and misrepresented in a relentless and unabashed manner.
I have argued consistently that the Biden Administration, key members of the EU, Specialized UN agencies such as UNICEF, non-governmental organizations that seemingly support civil and social rights such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, influential think-tanks as well as influential media giants such as the BBC, the New York Times, CNN, and others operate in concert against Ethiopia.
The 1945 international governance anchored in the UN Charter to govern, to mediate the behaviors and actions of member states, to strengthen peace and security and to advance the common good among all peoples of the world regardless of economic or military status has failed. Afghanistan is a prime example in Asia. Is not the USA accountable for the tragedy?
In Black Africa today, the ominous indicator that best illustrates graphically a precedent setting trend is the concert of actors that demean the Ethiopian national state and Government and that try to make both a pariah rather than a victim of treason and terrorism. This is because the victimizer (TPLF) is celebrated and granted impunity; while the victims (most of the Ethiopian people and their government) are accused of crimes of war, crimes against humanity, causing famine and starvation etc.
Since the outbreak of the war initiated by the TPLF on November 4, 2020, the concert of actors has practically subscribed to TPLF’s edict of “Tigray and Tigreans as the victims; and the victimizers as the Federal Government of Ethiopia, the Government of Eritrea and the Amhara regional forces.” I suggest here that these depictions foretold and identified the primary targets for punitive actions.
The reader ought to ask Why there is such a convergence of strategy and tactics between the narratives of the TPLF on the one hand and the above entities on the other?
As admirable and appropriate as they are, protests by Ethiopian and Eritrean Diaspora groups in front of the US Department of State and the White House that should have raised awareness have not dissuaded American decision makers. State Department Chief Anthony Blinken just tweeted this. “We strongly condemn Ethiopia’s decision to expel seven UN officials whose work is critical to humanitarian relief. The United States calls for this decision to be reversed and will not hesitate to respond decisively.”
I ask the Secretary of State and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres “Why did you fail to condemn the massacre by the TPLF of Afar and Amhara civilians reminiscent of the Mai Kadra massacre last November? Why did you fail or ignore TPLF robbery and capture of 428 relief vehicles including those owned by the UN? Why not condemn the TPLF for obstructing and for weaponing humanitarian aid? Does not stealing or diverting relief vehicles aggravate the famine conditions that you are concerned about? Why did you operate in concert and bring an Ethiopian domestic national security matter to the UN Security Council repeatedly? Is this not a gross violation of the UN Charter?
What does the Charter say?
Article 2(1 to 5) of the Charter to which Ethiopia adheres but powerful nations do not say this:
“The Organization and its Members, in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1, shall act in accordance with the following Principles.
1. The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its members.
2. All Members, to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfil in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present Charter.
3. All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.
4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
5. All Members shall give the United Nations every assistance in any action it takes in accordance with the present Charter and shall refrain from giving assistance to any state against which the United Nations is taking preventive or enforcement action.”
The UN Secretary General says that he is “alarmed” by the expulsion of 7 UN officials who were forewarned by the Government of Ethiopia that they must stop taking sides and refrain from providing the UN and others with unsubstantiated and one side information that emboldens the TPLF and prolongs the war. Didn’t the 7 officials fail to limit their activities to their technical and professional roles? It is appalling to me that the slaughter of Ethiopians and the declaration by the TPLF to balkanize Ethiopia is less alarming than the expulsion of a few UN officials who proved unworthy of their roles.
In my assessment, the UN Secretary General has gone overboard and has now sided with terrorists regarding Ethiopia. In doing this, he has endangered the faith and confidence Black Africans have in the UN system; and diminished the moral standing of the current international order that is dominated by the US.
The US Secretary of State has been singularly determined to bring down the Government of Ethiopia. His tweet condemning the expulsion of UN officials and his call for retraction of a legitimate act by Ethiopia concerning folks who violated Ethiopia’s sovereignty, security, honor, and dignity took place just days after a huge protest in front of his office, the White House and CNN. It is another gross and arrogant interference. It is inconsistent with the principles and norms embedded in the UN Charter.
The world cannot afford two sets of international norms: one for the powerful and the other for the poor and weak. African nations must wake up. In this connection, I commend the group of three dozen countries at the UN led by China that defended the sovereign rights of nations including Ethiopia that is under constant pressure.
The Biden Administration is squandering 118 years of US-Ethiopia relations.
The only voice in the United States Congress who cautioned against President Joe Biden’s punitive sanctions that are hardly based on differentiation of “the innocent” from the “criminal” is the one offered by Republican Congressman Christopher Smith of NJ. I commend Congressman Smith for his farsightedness, courage and unbridled friendship to Ethiopia and the Ethiopian people. I urge Ethiopian Americans, Eritrean Americans, and American friends to commend and join him at the earliest opportunity.
US Government hypocrisy at play
This takes me to the discord or asymmetry between what the US Government says and what it does. On June 4, 2009, President Obama said this in Cairo, Egypt. “So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.” The TPLF was designated by the US as “terrorist.” The TPLF committed treason just one day after Joe Biden was elected. Is US tacit or direct support to the TPLF not tantamount to “empowering those who sow hatred rather than peace, conflict rather than cooperation?” Are not the TPLF, its ally the OLF/Shane, Al-Shabab etc. “violent extremists” that President Obama singled out in his speech?
Barack Obama also said this. “The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms.” Ethiopia is facing “violent extremism” under the pretext of a TPLF led ethno-nationalist identity and oppression, ethnic exceptionalism, and privilege for a minority at enormous costs to most of the Ethiopian people.
If confronting “violent extremism” is good for the Muslim world, does not the same standard apply to Black Africa of which Ethiopia is a major part? If condemning terrorism against the USA is legitimate; why is applying the same principle to Ethiopia abhorrent? Or illegitimate?
Respect for sovereignty of nations
President Obama underscored a key principle that is being undermined by the Biden Administration regarding Ethiopia. “America will defend itself respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law.” Ethiopia’s territorial integrity and its sovereignty are sacrosanct for most Ethiopians. The Biden Administration knows fully that the TPLF had declared its commitment to the “Balkanization of Ethiopia.” To achieve this objective, it plots with Ethiopia’s externa arch enemies. Is the dismemberment of Ethiopia into non-viable and quarreling entities in the interest of the United States? It is not. Does not the Government of the United States have an obligation to respect the “the sovereignty” of Ethiopia? If President Obama’s talk in Cairo has real meaning, the answer is yes.
Is not the acid test of adhering to international law and to the tenets of the UN Charter identifying and calling violent extremists by name—TPLF/Shane and Al Shabab– and sanctioning them because of their terrorist acts poke directly at American core values? If yes, then Why is the Biden Admiration muddling the issue then?
A different perspective is required
I chose Pavan Kulkarni opinion to support my arguments for a reason: objectivity. It is a timely opinion written by an independent professional who has nothing to gain from his balanced and fair assessment. He writes for the Peoples Dispatch. This is a newly established alternative international media outlet that tries to provide insight from diverse voices representing associations, organizations, and movements “from across the globe.” For those of us who are frustrated, disheartened, and appalled by the dominance of state and corporate interest and influence over Western media, Peoples Dispatch is a refreshing development.
I remind readers to go back to President Joe Biden’s brief statement following his Executive Order on Ethiopia. “The ongoing conflict in northern Ethiopia is a tragedy causing immense human suffering and threatens the unity of the Ethiopian state. Nearly one million people are living in famine-like conditions, and millions more face acute food insecurity as a direct consequence of the violence. Humanitarian workers have been blocked, harassed, and killed. I am appalled by the reports of mass murder, rape, and other sexual violence to terrorize civilian populations.” I wish his statement was untrue. Sadly, this is true. In most instances if not in all, these are caused the TPLF.
The TPLF is unashamedly merciless and barbaric in its determination to degrade those it targeted. When the TPLF declared that it will initiate “a scorched earth approach and ensure that the Amhara population pays a huge price” it meant destruction and annihilation sparing nothing, including live animals.
If ordinary Americans had access to TPLF gunners killing oxen, cows, horses, donkeys, and chicken, they will be alarmed. In its frenzy of total war of annihilation and destruction, the TPLF killed live animals of economic value after slaughtering many and feeding the starved stomachs of its fighters. It ransacked, desecrated, looted, and burned monasteries and mosques. Many of the stolen artifacts are irreplaceable. It destroyed physical and social infrastructure including 3,000 health facilities, thousands of elementary and secondary schools and colleges. It deployed child soldiers as human shields. It is these acts of barbarism and terrorism that Secretary of State Blinken and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres should have called “alarming.”
In brief, the TPLF, designated “as terrorist” by Ethiopia’s Parliament and earlier by the US continues the same methodology of repression, ethnic cleansing and genocide, robbery like theft and destruction that it had applied during 27 years of dominance over Ethiopian society. Its brutal and crushing rule of Ethiopia gave the US and other Western powers the misleading and false impression that “Ethiopia was an anchor of stability” in the broken Horn of Africa. For sure, Ethiopia has always been a pace setter in Africa. This has not changed. But the semblance of peace, stability, and miraculous growth under the TPLF masked the horror and terror of human rights abuses including genocide and the debilitating state and party sponsored graft and corruption that General Stavridis underscored concerning Afghanistan. It is human tragedy, endemic corruption that led to the revolt against the TPLF. Ethiopia’s coffers were emptied.
The West, especially the Government of the US has a checked history when it comes to justice, the rule of law and respect for human rights. The parallel I draw for the reader, the UN Secretary General and for the Biden Administration is this. If you exclude and ignore Black Africans, Apartheid South Africa was once upon a time a “pillar of peace and development too.” It just depends which side serves your national interests best. The West had, for too long, supported, and emboldened Apartheid in the manner as it is doing today in Ethiopia by emboldening the TPLF. You can cite the Bible or the Koran or the UN Charter all you want. The “peacemakers” or the “Good Samaritans” are not immune from becoming troublemakers if this serves their national interests. How many dictators? How many thieves of state? How many colonizers? How many racist states? Etc. has the West in general and the US encouraged or supported? Too many.
Why the lack of parity?
It is disingenuous of the Biden Administration to ignore the fact that the Government of Ethiopia had declared a unilateral ceasefire without reciprocity from the TPLF. Neither the Secretary General of the UN nor the US Secretary of State demanded reciprocity. What is behind this lack of parity?
Just take the case of humanitarian assistance that the UN Secretary General and the US Secretary of State defend with passion, without due diligence as to who weaponized aid. Pavan Kulkarni writes “The head of USAID’s mission in Ethiopia, Sean Jones, had pointed out in an interview on August 25 that destruction of houses and looting of trucks and warehouses, including those of the USAID, was widespread in all villages TPLF entered. He made these remarks three days after aid transportation had come to a complete halt due to fighting in Afar.”
This hard evidence on the ground should have been taken seriously by the Biden Administration. If the Administration believes in the rights of victims to have “unfettered access” to food supplies, why not name, shame, and condemn the culprit, namely, the TPLF? It is in US national interest to do so.
Many Ethiopian commentators say that if the Government of the United States does not give credence to its own official on the ground; it is virtually impossible to imagine that the Biden Ethiopia Team will respect the views of Ethiopian Americans or the Government of Ethiopia. I repeat “deaf ears and blind eyes” for a reason.
It is this shortsighted approach in Biden Administration towards Ethiopia that leads me to conclude that US diplomatic position seems to be immovable.
It seems immovable because of the deafening silence to show alarm of the human toll and tragedy.
Under the section “A trail of massacres as TPLF retreats,” Pavan Kulkarni writes “On September 7, two mass-graves consisting of at least 100 civilians in Chena Teklehaimanot locality of Dabat District of the North Gondar in Amhara state were discovered after TPLF’s retreat. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) reported that the victims were those civilians who were unable to flee the area when TPLF took control and had been assured of their safety so long as they provided the fighters with food. However, when forced to beat a retreat upon the arrival of federal troops and Amhara militias, the TPLF killed the civilians on September 3-4, according to the residents and local authorities. Confirming the massacre, Amhara Regional State Communication Affairs Director, Gizachew Muluneh, said in a press statement that the TPLF “went house to house, killing elders, women, children and priests from church after tying their hands back.”
Why ignore to condemn the pattern of atrocities by the TPLF?
The above is a replica of what the TPLF did in November 2020 in Mai Kadra where 1,500 Amhara were massacred. The UN and the US have remained numb 11 months after the massacre. Emboldened by the silence, the TPLF continues to murder civilians without let up.
Kulkarni continues to write “Describing TPLF’s atrocities in Chena as “just the tip of the iceberg”, Ethiopian activist Getachew Shiferaw pointed out that “Civilians were [also] massacred in Kobo, Alamata, Lalibela, Abergele, Maytemri, Gaint, Gashena and Mersa, among other towns.”
The Biden Administration must stop emboldening the TPLF
“Two days after Biden’s executive order, when the TPLF welcomed it and assured cooperation with the US, the EHRC said on Sunday, September 19, that it was yet again receiving reports “about allegations of deliberate attacks against civilians in Kobo town and surrounding rural towns by TPLF fighters, including shelling on civilian areas, house to house searches and killings, looting and destruction of civilian infrastructure,” quotes Kulkarni. This is a graphic illustration of emboldening and empowering a terrorist group against Ethiopia. Why else would the TPLF welcome President Joe Biden’s Executive Order in its reaction on Egyptian TV? Why would spokesman Getachew Reda openly state that the TPLF planned to “break apart Ethiopia like former Yugoslavia”?
In summary, and as Pavan Kulkarni opined in his commentary, “The US has a long history of supporting the TPLF, which, despite representing only 6% of Ethiopia’s population, had been the country’s ruling party for 27 years starting from 1991. During this period, political parties were not allowed to operate outside the ruling coalition which was dominated by the TPLF. Freedom of speech and press did not exist under its authoritarian rule, which was rife with human rights abuses. Its foreign policy was centered around the war with Eritrea, which the US continues to antagonize.”
Ethiopia and the Ethiopian people deserve to be treated with honor and dignity. They deserve peace and stability. They deserve a government leadership at all levels that is democratic and inclusive; is merit based and free of nepotism, graft, bribery, criminal enterprise, and discrimination. These are essential ingredients in modern good governance without which sustainable and equitable development will be impossible.
Ethiopia faces multiple challenges on multiple fronts. I believe the single most important option that Ethiopia can control is mobilizing its own national human, technical, professional, financial capital, and other resources. It can and must supplement and complement internal mobilization to serve the common good with alternative resources from friendly countries across the globe. I am convinced Ethiopia will surmount current difficulties and emerge stronger than ever before.
Finally, I suggest in the strongest terms that the United States will benefit hugely from a united, peaceful, stable, democratic, and prosperous Ethiopia. On the other side of the equation, I am convinced that the USA has literally nothing to gain from the treasonous, con artist, criminal, corrupt, despised, most hated and cruel TPLF and its network of state thieves.
As an Ethiopian American who loves the United States of America, I hope and pray that US Ethiopian relations will not be adversely affected by the current ill-advised policy towards Ethiopia and 117 million Ethiopians.
October 3, 2021