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WHY IS THE U.S. WORRIED ABOUT ETHIOPIA?

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BY CONOR GAFFEY 
News Week

Ethiopia is a major U.S. ally in Africa. The government in Addis Ababa has long cooperated with Washington on security and counterterrorism while benefiting generously from U.S. aid. In 2016, the U.S. pledged $809 million to Ethiopia, behind only war-torn South Sudan and Kenya, another Western ally, in sub-Saharan Africa.

 

But the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa struck an urgent and concerned tone on Tuesday when it issued a statement saying it was “disturbed by the troubling reports” on “ethnic violence and the large-scale displacement of people” along the border between the country’s two largest regions, Oromia and Somali.

“We urge the Ethiopian government to conduct a transparent investigation into all allegations of violence and to hold those responsible accountable,” said the embassy’s statement.

“At the same time, on the local level, communities must be encouraged and given space to seek peaceful resolutions to the underlying conflicts.”

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Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn addresses a U.N. summit.Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn addresses a summit at the United Nations headquarters in New York, on September 25, 2015.ANDREW KELLY/REUTERS

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Ethiopia has a federal government with oversight over regional authorities, and regions are largely demarcated along ethnic and linguistic lines. Oromos, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, tend to be farmers, while Somalis are often pastoralists, and the border has been a flashpoint for conflicts over grazing land and natural resources in the past, according to the BBC.

The latest outbreak of violence has killed at least 50 people and displaced more than 50,000, according to Reuters. But the cause is not yet clear, since both sides are blaming each other. Officials in Oromia have blamed raids by a paramilitary force from the Somali region, known as the Liyu police, as a major cause of the violence. But the Somali regional government has rejected that claim and accused the government in Oromia of sympathizing with the Oromo Liberation Front, a group seeking self-determination for Oromos, which is a banned terrorist organization in Ethiopia.

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The clashes pose a delicate challenge for Ethiopia’s federal government and come only months after serious unrest in Oromia and other regions, which began with protests in November 2015 upon plans to expand the territory of Addis Ababa.

Security forces killed 669 people during the unrest, mostly in Oromia, according toan investigation mandated by the Ethiopian parliament. Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn imposed a repressive state of emergency in October 2016that lasted for 10 months and was only lifted in August as the clashes subsided.

09_19_Ethiopia_conflictA demonstrator (left) dressed in military fatigues joins members of the Oromo, Ogaden and Amhara communities in Johannesburg as they protest against the crackdown in the restive Oromo and Amhara regions of Ethiopia, on August 18, 2016. Clashes on the border between Ethiopia’s two biggest regions have killed at least 50 and displaced more than 50,000 in the past week.GULSHAN KHAN/AFP/GETTY

The prime minister announced at the weekend that federal police would be sent in to guard roads crossing the neighboring regions, while regional security forces were ordered to withdraw from the borderlands. Desalegn also met with religious leaders and elders in a bid to create a lasting solution to the border dispute, the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported. A 2004 referendum was supposed to resolve the issue, but both sides have accused each other of noncompliance with the result.

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It seems that American eyes will be watching Desalegn and the Ethiopian government closely as they seek a solution to the violence.

“We believe Ethiopia’s future as a strong, prosperous and democratic nation depends on open and inclusive political dialogue for all Ethiopians, greater government transparency, and strengthening the institutions of democracy and justice,” said the U.S. embassy statement.

“These recent events underscore the need to make more rapid and co

1 Comment

  1. USA has been worried about the old country just like me for quite some time now for obvious reasons. The two big countries in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia and Eritrea are ruled by a den of thugs and both are in a state of war with each other for more than two decades now. USA sees the undercurrent animosity that has been simmering in the old country for decades now fanned by known outside elements. My own Oromos and Amharas have stopped seeing eye to eye any more. Our Amhara brothers and sisters are led to stop seeing eye to eye with our Tigrayan brothers and sisters. Oromos and Somalis not only stopped seeing eye to eye but are senselessly butchering each others like animals. Our dear people of Afars have been on war footing with our wonderful people of Issas for decades. It is not those days of spears, knives or bolt action rifles. You would not be hard pressed to see an Afar, Issa, Guji, Burji, Borana and even one of those tribesmen in remote locations in the Omo River valley brandishing a well supplied AK-47 and if you cozy up to him you may not have to travel too far for him to show you his RPG arsenal. Because of such animosity that has been let to run amok by a small clique of thugs sitting at the top of the regime that country is sitting on a 100 million powder keg. And if you don’t have the weapons all you have to do walk in the neighboring country and you will be armed to the teeth at no charge. I did not make this up. All you have to do is look around. YouTube is full of them and you will see them bragging about their military hardware and where they are located during the filming. The Sebhat Nega’s school boys are fanning the smoldering animosity between various ethnic groups and their other cousin is supplying the flints for a perfect spark to light up an inferno of historical proportion. The Sebhat Negas graduates have been working overtime for almost three decades to confine democracy within ethnic boundary in stead of democracy for all. You see. Those glorious people whose glorious history has been the pride of the colored are being pulled apart in every direction of hostilities. The situation is primed to the hilt and all it needs is for someone to make the wrong move. The bloodshed and endless mayhem in the offing there will make the current bloodletting in Syria a cake walk. That is what depriving me of sleep all along and it is just that which alarms the Good Ole USA.

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