“Suspension of EU aid to Ethiopia is yet another example of direct TPLF’s lobbyists influence in Brussels,” says prominent Ethiopian activist Mesfin Aman
December 20, 2020
Suspension of EU aid to Ethiopia is yet another example of direct TPLF’s lobbyists influence in Brussels. Brussels has the second highest density of lobbyists in the world after Washington DC. In one estimate the pharmaceutical sector has spent a minimum of €40m per year lobbying European institutions, and the financial sector €120m a year.
The hundreds of lobbying consultancy firms active in Brussels mostly work for large corporations and industries but lobbying for governments and political groups so subcontracting diplomacy seems to be a growing market in Brussels. The practice of lobbying is widely associated with secrecy, hidden influence, privileged access, and unfair advantage.
While in power TPLF hired DLA Piper to lobby the EU institutions. In June 2008, two DLA Piper lobbyists attended an EU parliamentary hearing in Brussels on the human rights situation in Ethiopia. The lobbyists came to defend the TPLF’s regime and challenge the then socialist MEP Ana Gomes and Dr Berhanu Nega. Personally, I attend the hearing, I recall Berhanu’s response to the lobbyist saying: “You earn money by defending a corrupt and criminal regime at the expense of the misery of millions of the Ethiopian poor”
DLA Piper said in a statement issued in 2009 “Our government affairs teams have worked with [the government of Ethiopia] in London and Brussels as well as Washington, DC”. In Washington, government records show that between September 2007 and June 2008 the Ethiopian government hired three consultancies (DLA Piper, Dewey & LeBoeuf, Mark Sailor) and spent more than $2,500,000 on lobbying. During that period, DLA Piper’s lobbyists did all they could to undermine the human rights bill “HR2003” which aims at linking respect for human rights and US foreign aid. Those lobbying efforts were denounced by the Ethiopian Diaspora a few months later through a low-key counter-campaign in Washington. According to DLA Piper, its contract with the TPLF regime ended in November 2008.
Under TPLF’s rule billions were being pumped out of Ethiopia every year. That looted money has helped it open doors in Washington and Brussels. There are plenty of indicators that TPLF hired lobby firms to lobby the EU on its behalf against the ongoing law enforcement operation.
TPLF hired “public affairs” or “public relations” firms in Brussels to try and boost their diplomacy work. Their motives include polishing their image, gaining political support, exert pressure on the government, and blocking EU support to Ethiopia. EU decisions are of increasing importance to Ethiopian government, for instance in the context of aid or political support. This may explain why TPLF is turning to professional lobbyists.
On November 4 night 2020, TPLF’s militias and special force attacked ENDF Northern Command while launching a parallel misinformation war in overseas against the Ethiopian government. The lobby and PR firm hired by TPLF designed media strategy to depict TPLF as a victim of Ethiopian Federal government aggression, with misinformation spread almost hourly over the one-month operation. Terms like “Civilian victims”, “humanitarian”, “occupation”, “ethnic cleansing”,” mass migration” … were carefully picked up to trigger western media interest. The strategy was built on exploiting the news media’s need for a human angle on coverage, including images for television. Western correspondents were encouraged to go into the Sudan refugee camp and showed newly arrived refugees in front of the camera.
The media’s pick stories that suits their interest but turn down reports on the other perspective. Again, the editors, programme directors and the other big wigs in the media fail to tell the world that TPLF start the conflict and launched rocket attack on civilian targets in Bahir Dar, Gonder and Asmara.
The decision to suspend aid to Ethiopia comes after almost one month of continued misinformation and lobby efforts to pressure the Ethiopian federal government to stop the low enforcement operation in the Tigray region.
The EU and other powers wilfully overlook TPLF’s unprovoked attack on ENDF Northern command and its effort to undermine the political transition since it dislodged from power in Addis.
The EU and other western partners have openly pressured Ethiopia to halt its military operation and negotiate with the TPLF group. Such a call tantamount to surrender Ethiopians sovereignty.
Ethiopia is a proud nation that has resisted foreign invasion throughout its history. That sense of national pride has generated countrywide support for the government law enforcement operation.
By suspending some aid, the EU has reopened the debate on whether Ethiopia should depend on foreign aid to realise its economic goals.
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