By Abebe Gellaw
The current Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is on a messianic mission to Ethiopia, a country where food aid is a permanent fixture in the political-economic lexicon. Samantha Power hasn’t gone to Ethiopia to listen or talk to government officials. She is there to deliver a strong message from the Biden administration.
Ms. Power is not just focused on ways to help those facing starvation as a devastating war rages in northern Ethiopia. She is also playing political games. Aid from the U.S. or other Western countries does not come for free. As they say, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”
The situation in Ethiopia is alarming without a doubt. But the message from Washington is disturbing in equal measure. It doesn’t seem to be focusing on a peaceful resolution for the conflict in Tigray. They have already hammered home the message via twitter and cable TV consistently and repeatedly. “Do whatever we tell you to do before we mess you up. Hurry up!” It is a limited take-it-or-leave-it kind of scenario.
Most Ethiopians, who don’t even understand how realpolitik works in international politics, are insisting on respect for sovereignty. But neither Secretary Blinken nor Power worry about Ethiopia’s sovereignty in a world where they feel they must do whatever it takes to dictate and impose their will on a global scale. The reality is that a country that has been dependent on foreign aid for survival does not have the full capacity to push back and assert its independence and sovereignty.
Power is aware of the power of dangling food aid as a leverage. After all, Ethiopia has suffered a series of devastating draughts and at least two horrifying famines in the last five decades. Besides, Ethiopia has so many critical development projects funded by USAID ranging from health to clean drinking water provisions that are in jeopardy unless it accepts so many lethal pills. One of the serious threats that U.S. officials have hinted at is that they will also press the World Bank and IMF to freeze or withdraw their economic packages in the form of grants and loans.
The TPLF, which has built a network of powerful friends in the West during its 27-year long in power, is also leaving no stone unturned to put massive pressure on the government. They are hiring lobbyists and advocates to advance their agenda forcefully. Despite the fact that TPLF terrorists brought about the current calamities on Ethiopia by igniting a devastating war, it is still being treated as a legitimate government of Tigray. Some of the key demands that Washington is making are obviously favorable to the TPLF, which is totally unacceptable.
It is said that Power is pushing the Biden administration to open a humanitarian corridor to deliver emergency food aid to Tigray. The intention is noble at face value. It can also have a devastating impact for Ethiopia as the TPLF will fully capitalize on such a corridor to import not food but weapons.
They already have the expertise in arms smuggling and using food aid as a commodity of war. Wherever there is hunger, whoever controls food controls the destiny of people. Reports are already coming out from Tigray that families have to sacrifice at least one child to get 20 pounds of wheat. This is TPLF’s ruthless way of feeding the vicious war instead of the hungry. The terrorists do whatever it takes to remain relevant. The bill is on the poor people of Tigray as well as the entire country.
For the long term, if Ethiopians believe that their sovereignty and independence are invaluable, they need to make it a priority to ensure food security. Food security is a critical investment that needs to be given the utmost priority. Once food security is ensured, then we can talk about national pride and sovereignty with friends and foes as equals.
For the short term, Ethiopia has no choice but to stand her ground at any cost. The survival of Ethiopia as a nation is at stake because of TPLF’s flagrant acts of terrorism and war of attrition. No nation, no matter how poor, can’t afford to surrender to terrorists. Fighting terrorism is as critical as it is for the United States.
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