Aklog Birara (Dr)
Mr. Doug Bandow, a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, and the author of several books, including Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire commentary posted a powerful commentary on August 31st in which he summed up my own assessments of the Biden Africa Team’s follies; and its incoherent, misguided, shortsighted and dangerous policy towards Ethiopia. Ethiopia is an American steadfast and reliable ally against terrorism in the Horn and Eastern Africa. It serves as an anchor country. This antagonistic policy and the punitive measures that the Biden Africa Team has imposed and is discussing to impose on Ethiopia reverberates throughout the entire African continent. I no longer trust the arrogant and one-sided thrust of the Biden Africa Team decision making process. It does not serve American interests in the long run.
The people of the United States that I admire must be aware of the adverse implications and damaging impacts of misguided policies on Ethiopia’s youth. Youth constitutes 75 percent of Ethiopians in the second most populous country in Africa. Their aspiration is not to kill one another. Rather, it is to eradicate poverty and to enjoy life, freedom, and personal security in their own homeland. They are tired of the donor community’s pretense that the only way for Ethiopia to prosper is to beg.
Black Africa has changed but not US policy towards it.
Today’s Africa and the rest of the world are radically different from the Colonial and the Cold War eras. This is true for the Middle East, North Africa, East and South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. in all of these, countries and their leaders resent unwarranted intervention in their domestic affairs. The results of intervention are glaringly devastating. Iraq was invaded; but it has not yet healed. Libya was bombed; but the ills and animosity left behind have spread into Burkina Faso, Mali and beyond. In Afghanistan where the leading superpower, the USA, invested trillions of dollars paid for by American taxpayers is as poor and as conflict ridden today as it was 20 years ago.
America’s taxpayers must know the truth. They granted tens of billions of dollars in humanitarian and development assistance to Ethiopia over the past three decades alone. Massive aid became the most revered, easiest, fastest, most assured, and most lucrative source of riches for the TPLF extended family and for limited allies that supported its repressive and divide and rule governance. Donors including USAID, the World Bank, the IMF, and specialized UN agencies completely ignored endemic and institutionalized theft, bribery, graft, and corruption. This lack of empathy and sympathy for the Ethiopian poor, including Tigrean Ethiopians who continued to depend on the World Bank’s safety net program was compounded by an equally callous attitude on the part of the donor and diplomatic community towards TPLF’s barbaric and inhumane treatment of non-Tigran Ethiopians for almost three decades.
In November last year, I appealed to the UN when I urged this body that Ethiopia helped establish to hold the TPLF for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Nothing of the kind happened. Instead, the UN became part of the problem. Left blameless, the TPLF expanded the war to the Afar and Amhara regions. It destroyed 7,000 schools; committed Mai Kadra like atrocities etc. etc.
American taxpayers have the right to ask why their monies were squandered and why the Biden Africa Team continues to condone if not support the treasonous and terrorist group that the Government of the United States had designated as “terrorist”? The primary reason for the callousness, many surmise, is because the TPLF served as a reliable ally of the USA in the Horn of Africa. The TPLF leadership including the late Ethiopian Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi crafted and used the art of doing their level best to charm, endear and please the donor and diplomatic community. There is not a single notable foreign official especially, especially American on a mission or trip to Ethiopia who was not dined and wined or who was not given expensive gifts such as jewelry for females and God knows what for men. This charm giving generously and hiding billions of dollars in foreign banks and investments at the expense of the Ethiopian poor has bought the TPLF loyal friends and supporters in the Biden Administration Africa Team and outside.
In short, the American people deserve to know that donor monies were given to Ethiopia to alleviate poverty. But the bulk of it was siphoned off and taken out of the country illicitly. This is the reason why Ethiopia is still one of the poorest and the unhealthiest countries on the planet. One major study and report by a reliable American journal pointed out about four years ago that $30 billion of America’s aid was literally stolen by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (the TPLF) that ruled Ethiopia with an iron fist for three decades. It is this thief of state and party that Ethiopians dislodged from power three years ago. By the time the TPLF was removed from power, it had bankrupted Ethiopia. It is this same terrorist, corrupt, cruel, immoral, and unethical political party that the Biden Africa Team continues to endear and support. The American people have the right to ask why?
The truth that the American public deserves to know
The self-serving arguments provided and championed by the Biden Africa Team include defending human rights, averting ethnic genocide and ethnic cleansing of Tigrean Ethiopians, promoting the rule of law, and advancing democracy. These values that most of us also share are not exportable commodities. They must not be misused to punish perceived adversaries and to condone criminal acts. To be durable, ordinary citizens must understand, cherish, own, defend and institutionalize these universal values; and die for them. I can assure the American people that most Ethiopians prefer democracy.
The lesson I draw from these sample of US led follies and debilitating incidents (Iraq, former Yugoslavia, Libya, Afghanistan etc.) that shattered the fabric of states as well as the lives of ordinary people is this. Regardless of the weaponry, the projection of terrifying might and the enormous investments paid for by American taxpayers across the globe, the world view of imperial hegemony to subjugate and impose ones will over other nations is literally over. Why else did the superstructure and infrastructure that the United States and its Western allies built in Afghanistan over two decades collapse in 11 days? Is there a lesson here? Is anyone in the Biden Africa Team listening though? I am confident that the American people care if they hear the truth.
In most African countries including Ethiopia, America’s enduring values such as fair play, equality under the law, equitable administration of the law, social and economic justice for all, a democratic system of Government with checks and balances enshrined in the constitution are aspirational goals for which millions are fighting and for which tens of thousands are dying. Before the reform process in Ethiopia that began more than three years ago, the international community would recall that Ethiopia was in a state of siege. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the US Department of State expressed outrage and deep concern.
Human Rights Watch characterized the process and results of the make-believe 2015 national election as follows. The Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front led and dominated by the TPLF was “marred by intimidation. The EPRDF (read the TPLF) won in a landslide through a corrupted electoral process” where there was no viable competition. For more information read “https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/may/25/ethiopia-election-irregularities-claim#:~:text=Ethiopianelectionmarred,corrupted with threats…….
During the 2015 Ethiopian national election alone hundreds of Ethiopian youths were murdered by the TPLF. Their sole crime was simple: justice and the right to be heard. Intimidation, harassment, and extrajudicial killing measures were normalized by the TPLF. Tens of thousands were hauled like cattle by the TPLF dominated regime and sent to concentration and indoctrination camps.
The American people ought to know that during the honeymoon period after Abiy Ahmed’s election as Prime Minister of Ethiopia, the Government of the United States and the European Union commended him for releasing all political prisoners and for inviting those in exile to return and to become part of the change process. He tried to democratize and humanize Ethiopia.
I remind the American people of the truth in terms of the fraudulent and undemocratic nature of Ethiopia’s past elections, all those make-believe elections held under the TPLF dominated regime that took power in 1991 under the auspices of the USA. It is this same fraudulent Ethiopian national election which the TPLF won without contest that former President Barack Obama characterized as “free and fair.” I ask President Obama why he did that?
I would like to draw to the attention of the American people and fair-minded US policy and decision makers in Congress that the Biden Africa Team continues a political tradition of preference and empowerment of a repressive, corrupt, avowedly Marxist-Leninist, tribal, and undemocratic political party today. The TPLF is just that and more. I urge the American people to demand explanation for this travesty. My reasoning is simple. This policy undermines America’s national security and investment interests in Ethiopia and the rest of the Horn of Africa. It erodes America’s standing in Africa.
Mr. Bandow’s “Barely Out of Afghanistan, Now America Is Supposed to Save Tigray from Ethiopia and Eritrea?” commentary tells me in graphic terms the human tragedy that unfolded in Afghanistan where a repeat of the Vietnam era exodus took place with millions of people across the globe watching in horror and dismay. I did not hear US Administration officials admitting total failure in advancing justice, human rights, the rule of law or democracy in Afghanistan. I did not hear an indication or readiness not to repeat the same mistake in Ethiopia or in the rest of Africa. US policy embodied in soft power must be pushed to generate support and ownership of American values by ordinary African citizens including Ethiopians.
The Biden Africa Team is doing the exact opposite. It does the opposite because the TPLF was identified by the US as a terrorist group. Just last week, the Head of the United States Agency for International Development in Ethiopia reported his outrage that the TPLF (he called them “rebels”) were moving house to house to house, village to village, town to town and “looting humanitarian aid resources from warehouses.” This is what he missed to say. Since June 28, 2021, TPLF insurgents have destroyed 7,000 schools in the Amhara region alone. They have massacred 270 Afar civilians, 107 of them children and 40 of them women. These atrocities cap the Mai Kadra massacre in the Amhara region last November at which more than 1,500 civilians including day laborers were massacred. This massacre was reported by Amnesty International but ignored by the Biden Africa Team.
Why is the Biden Africa Team zeroing in on Tigray?
“Whatever the outcome, Washington dramatically demonstrated yet again that militarized social engineering is an art Americans have yet to learn. However, other crises loom around the globe and, of course, those who demanded that America stay in Afghanistan now insist that Washington take on these new responsibilities, presumably to demonstrate improved levels of competence. Consider the extraordinarily brutal tricornered battle ongoing among Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Tigray.” opines Mr. Bandow.
On my part, I ask the good, generous, and decent people of the United whether the Government of the United States must be allowed to experiment America’s might by using military force or through what is now commonly known as “humanitarian imperialism” that is pushed by Western democracies led by the Government of the United States on ordinary Ethiopians or Eritreans or Somalis or other Black people in Africa or anywhere on this planet? Is such humanitarian aid in synch with American values?
What is the genesis of the tricornered conflict? Why does the Biden Africa Team mask the truth?
I would like to draw the attention of the American people to the following set of facts.
1. The American people deserve to know that just one day after the US Presidential elections the TPLF committed treason when it attacked Ethiopia’s Northern Defense Command and murdered non-Tigrean officers and soldiers and when it captured huge quantities of military hardware. Its ultimate objective was to restore the power it lost through insurrection.
2. The American people deserve to know that the TPLF used captured military assets including rockets and attacked the Eritrean capital of Asmara three times, and the cities of Bahir Dar and Gondar repeatedly with rockets. This unprovoked attack on a sovereign country, Eritrea, forced its defense forces to be involved in the war against the TPLF.
3 The American people deserve to know that the war, the humanitarian crisis, the untold suffering of ordinary Ethiopians in Tigray and the rest of war-torn regions, the destruction of huge amounts of private property and infrastructure that will take decades to rebuild was forced on the Government of Ethiopia by the TPLF and not the other way around.
4. The American people deserve to know that the facts on the ground such as “war crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing, rapes” and other atrocities are rarely if ever reported by credible, independent, and objective sources. The Biden Africa Team is part of the problem. For instance, the Government of Ethiopia declared a unilateral ceasefire on June 28. Secretary Antony Blinken did not demand that the TPLF reciprocate in kind. Emboldened by deaf ears and blind eyes (the State Department and the White House, the UN, and the EU) the TPLF expanded the war to the Afar and Amhara regions. The cycle of violence intensified with both sides mobilizing their human capital popularizing this tragedy as peoples’ war with no end. Under reported or not reported at all is the fact on the ground that Tigrean, Amhara and Afar Children, young women, and men are dying in droves. Rapes are normalized. The poor are getting poorer. The displaced population in the Amhara region alone exceeds a million. Farmers in the Afar, Amhara and Tigray regions are unable to farm. Famine is looming.
What is the way out from this abominable quagmire?
The American people deserve to know that siding with the treasonous and terrorist TPLF that started the war in the first place and then expanded it when it had the chance to reciprocate is not a winning formula for the Biden Africa Team.
“Lest you decide to toss in your lot with Tigray, however, its forces seem no less cruel. Explained the Post: “civilians fleeing the conflict are accusing Tigrayan forces of committing a range of atrocities, including door-to-door executions, as they have widened the conflict beyond the borders of their own region. Displaced people blame Tigrayan troops for ‘killings, widespread looting and the indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas,’ Agence France-Presse reported,” quotes Bandow. I agree with him “This is a terrible conflict and utterly wrong for all concerned. Of course, the combat should end. But what can the US do?”
5. I urge the American people, especially the electorate that Ethiopia deserves constructive support at a time of greatest threat from within and without. Punitive sanctions against Ethiopia and its high officials will not work. The American people must, instead, pressure the Biden Africa Team to demand that the TPLF reciprocate and stop its terrorist acts immediately and unconditionally. It must demand that looting or blocking humanitarian aid and shipments to Tigrean and other civilians is an act of aggression. The Biden Africa Team must be bold, and fair minded enough to state clearly that failure to implement these critical steps will result in the application of the Magnitsky Act against TPLF leaders, members and supporters who misinform, who murder, who loot or block or weaponize humanitarian aid and those who recruit child soldiers and deploy them as human shields.
6. Finally, I urge the American people to push the Biden Africa Team as well as members of the US Congress to champion the imperative of establishing an independent and all-inclusive Commission for enduring peace, national reconciliation, and consensus in Ethiopia. Such a Commission must address the institutional and structural causes that led to the current debilitating war. I am convinced that pushing and financing such an initiative by the United States will renew and cement US and Ethiopian relations for decades to come.
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