By Teshome M. Borago
Many Ethiopians worldwide were caught off-guard when US President Joe Biden’s White House posted a “Happy New Year” or “Enkutatash” message to Ethiopians. After a whole year of Biden’s administration supporting and legitimizing insurrection in Ethiopia, the majority of Ethiopians thought Biden’s message was a “sick joke” (a favorite phrase of one of Samantha Power’s TPLF colleague.)
Ethiopians could not believe their eyes when the White House released the New Year statement. And online, many Ethiopians ridiculed Biden’s message and some posted that Obama “what you talking about?” famous GIF, expressing their surprise. After-all, the United States has been at the forefront of pushing sanctions on Ethiopia and giving a diplomatic & morale boost to both TPLF (in Tigray) and Egypt (on the hydro dam) which literally the whole Ethiopian population had to finance (because US blocked Ethiopia at the IMF and World Bank). In fact, after TPLF triggered the war, its leaders like Getachew Reda have repeatedly expressed gratitude for the US and EU. As the 2014 New Year approached, the most trending social media video in Ethiopia was a cartoon figure of three TPLF leaders singing the traditional “Abebayosh” song, asking Samantha Powers to bomb Ethiopia like Libya. So it is no surprise that even Ethiopian leaders like Col. Demeke Zewdu recently said “America is indirectly at war” with Ethiopia.
Biden failed Ethiopia repeatedly. After begging TPLF for peace between 2018-2020, the Abiy regime faced criticism from Ethiopians for recklessly imposing a ceasefire to give TPLF another chance and to appease the West. Again, Biden’s team including Secretary Blinken doubled down on criticizing Ethiopia, to justify TPLF’s rejection of the ceasefire. This is why most Ethiopians blame the West for all the post-ceasefire atrocities by TPLF since July (displacement of over million and slaughter of thousands) – which all could have been avoided.
Ethiopians did not want pledges of American food aid after US-backed TPLF insurrection commits so much destruction, Ethiopians simply wanted peace, and we can feed ourselves. After the historic peaceful transition in 2018, Ethiopians were only hungry for a new country that finally treats all her citizens equally, not for a war with any entity like TPLF that seeks to maintain the uneven rights of her citizens. Instead, not only US, even other Western countries like France cut off military deals with Ethiopia during the TPLF insurrection, WHILE they continue arming and financing Egypt and Sudan, whose militaries are at war with Ethiopia. The ongoing costly conflict and western sanctions have also damaged Ethiopian economy, impacting millions of lives. It seems the West is repeating what it does to Russia and other nations: claiming to wish peace for us while funding rebellion, and accusing us of mismanaging our economy while sanctioning us. And for those who scream about “American values,” the irony is Abiy’s government has advanced the first development of independent institutions, the biggest promotion of gender parity and the most neoliberalized and pro-Green economy in Ethiopian history. However, all of this did not matter for the racist and pro-war hawks in the US foreign policy establishment who just push a bulldozer indiscriminately wherever China does business, and indulge in perpetuating their bigoted pre-existing views that Africans are inherently and morally subhuman and uncivilized.
Nonetheless, though It looks like a long shot, if the Biden US administration really wants to turn the chapter on its disastrous foreign policies and genuinely wish Ethiopians a Happy New Year, here are 5 steps or ways to reform and reverse its negative role in Ethiopia (and the region.)
- Call for the disarmament of TPLF and all insurrectionists in Ethiopia. Push militants with global networks to pursue peaceful & legal ways. US must end its political support for coup agents in Africa, stop using “both sides” argument to legitimize rebellion, end US economic & military support (thru sanctioning Ethiopian economy and leadership) to TPLF.
- Substantially Increase direct investment and trade with Ethiopia. There were several more millions of Ethiopians surviving on food aid in 2018 than during the 1970s & 1980s. Some data also showed that Ethiopia had a huge trade deficit with US under the AGOA program. Instead of canceling the program, fix it as well as adopt the mid 20th century US policy in South Korea for Ethiopia: by providing direct/forex monetary support early, followed by promoting technical training, industrialization and entrepreneurship in Ethiopia.
- Stop geopolitical-based blockage of international financial institutional funds to Ethiopian projects.America blocking IMF and WB funds from supporting major infrastructure projects like the GERD has devastated Ethiopia’s economy and foreign currency reserves. Ethiopia can not even utilize her own waters because US and EU openly helped Egypt to maintain hegemony on the Nile. This has hurt not only Ethiopia, but also other black African countries upstream.
- Stop dangerously tilting the balance of military power in north & East Africa. Since US began providing billions of military technology, equipment & aid to Egyptian army and Air Force, Cairo has become the biggest warmongering state in Africa. This is how Egypt is in eastern Sudan right now. Unless US plans to provide the same amount of major weaponry to regional countries like Ethiopia, US is promoting power imbalance and endless wars. The western heavy weaponry aid to Egypt has also freed up Cairo’s military budget to invest in the development and purchase of small weapons, which most of them end up arming militants in Ethiopia, Somalia and the region.
- Promote in Ethiopia the same pro-unity and anti-nativism values you cherish at home in America. In recent years, Western media, diplomats and institutions have began intellectualizing and legitimizing the most tribalist and divisive movements in Ethiopia. They seem to believe segregation and Xenophobia are bad for America, but good for Ethiopia. But human beings are not animals to be segregated by tribe. Ethiopia is no more diverse than Ghana which has hundreds of ethnicities, and Ethiopia has no worse “colonial legacy” than America. For example, like the Menelik-led Shewans who conquered other Ethiopians, some of our pre-1800s southern Oromo ancestors conquered half the country. But this is not unique. Let alone the major ethnicities, the “small” ethnic communities at times had colonial/expansionist history among each other, which to this day fuel land disputes even throughout the south (SNNPR). Yet, None of this dark, contested and controversial past should be used by Western policy makers as an excuse to enflame pre-existing divisions. It should not be used as an excuse to promote the most fringe, separatist and nativist sections of Ethiopian society to shape our future. Ethiopia is and will remain a country of many minorities. The West must stop supporting those who advocate nativism and apartheid in Ethiopia. US can do this by financing and promoting post-ethnic and multiethnic non-governmental organizations and civil societies operating in the Ethiopian urban to spread their wings through out the country.
While American foreign policy failures in regards to the above 5 areas did not suddenly begin in 2018, their fruits have never become more clearer than during the last two years when Ethiopians finally began uniting their country for a common goal and shared identity. Its consequences had been exasperated by Biden’s foreign policy of backing TPLF, one of the most anti-democratic and divisive organizations in African history. It is never too late to change if Biden really wishes Ethiopians a Happy New Year.
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