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We all ask: Why is the US [the West] so much in love with TPLF?

We all ask: Why is the US [the West] so much in love with TPLF? 

Editor’s note : the content was first shared on Ethiopian p2p forum on Thursday. It is shared on borkena to see the audience would engage with the questions. Share your views in the comment section.

US _ WEST _ TPLF _ Ethiopia



By Wubalem  

Truth be told, these types of questions are irrelevant and counterproductive.  

We should instead frame questions, even if only rhetorically, that would eventually help us  think through the mess our country is going through. I would like to start with the following  premises (assumptions, if you please) in a bid to provoke explanation for US/Western stance  on the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia and then propose “workable” solution options. You are  free to agree or disagree with them in so long as you provide reasonable, persuasive  arguments, in which case we might be compelled to start all over again. Here I go: 

1. The US /West is not planning and working toward the fragmentation or dissolution of  Ethiopia or otherwise making Ethiopia a failed state. It would be a strategic folly to  pursue such policy for the simple reason that it would harm the US and its regional  and European allies first and foremost. It is simply playing its classic Superpower role  in its competition to dislodge Ethiopia from any potential or actual rival (e.g. Chinese,  Russia, etc.) influence and to exercise its hegemony in the HoA (Horn of Africa), no  matter what it costs Ethiopia. 

2. The US/West recognizes that the TPLF is hated by the majority of Ethiopians. The  US therefore is not working to reinstate the TPLF regime as such. True, the US/West  is actively supporting the TPLF fight against the current Abiy-led Prosperity regime.  This is so because the US/West finds it a convenient opportunity to exert leverage on  PM Abiy. 

3. The US/West has benefited from the 27-year TPLF/EPRDF rule because the TPLF  regime had provided proven services and as such has been a pivotal, reliable US  security-anchor/partner/service-provider in its fight against terrorism in the strategic  Horn of Africa [HoA] and other US/West interests in the HOA and still has loyal  agents in its service it intends to retain in circulation. 

4. The US/West, recognizing the growing repression, institutionalized corruption and  hence alienation of the TPLF regime from the Ethiopian society, and taking into  account the ever-escalating popular resistance against the TPLF regime that reached  its peak in 2018, was interested to facilitate a smooth exit for the TPLF regime, while  at the same time maintaining its geo-strategic-security interests and continuing the  TPLF-era geo-strategic and security priorities in the HoA unaltered by the new  regime. 

5. The US/West supported the coming to power of PM Abiy with the assumption it would be more acceptable to put in place a new leader with a new face, from a new  and large, ambitious Oromo constituency who nevertheless would maintain the status  quo, i.e. the security architecture/partnership built during the TPLF-led regime. The  US assumption was that PM Abiy’s regime would be as compliant as TPLF’s – sort of  TPLF Version 2, which failed to materialize.

6. As it stands, however, PM Abiy seems not to follow that playbook. Abiy’s  independent policy is considered dangerous in that it would create a sort of “coalition  of the defiant” threat in the HoA (possibly consisting of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia,  Djibouti) thus opening the region to unwanted influence/presence for actual or  potential US adversaries (e.g., China, Russia, etc.). Hence the need to compel PM  Abiy to change course, and failing that, to put in place a new compliant regime  (Version 3) that would continue providing the security anchor/service to the US  command that controls the HoA region. 

To summarize: the foregoing premises lead us to conclude that US/West strategic  interest in the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia is: 

A. Not about reinstating to power (or power-sharing) or otherwise saving TPLF from its  demise as such, but using the TPLF resistance as leverage to compel PM Abiy to be  compliant. In other words, provided PM Abiy submits, TPLF is dispensable. 

B. About the installation of US/West -friendly, compliant post-TPLF regime capable of  holding the country together while providing the “usual, expected” security services that would spare the US from having to deploy US-manned fighting force in the HoA,  which, particularly given the fiasco in Iraq and Afghanistan, is likely to exact huge  domestic political costs. The US/West is in search of an Ethiopian partner regime that  would provide critical “anchor-security” services (e.g., in peace-keeping, peace making operations and, as needed, unilateral rapid deployment/military intervention in  the region, to check other superpower influence and beyond). 

Assuming the arguments above hold, what then would be the implications? What  alternatives i.e. response options are available for Ethiopia? 

I can think of the following four scenarios. 

A. Pursue a “non-aligned” policy: The government would be pursuing a foreign policy  strictly adhering to the principle of “non-alignment”, not unlike the policy Haile  Selassie’s regime followed after WW II. Haile Selassie’s astute technocrats were able  to outmaneuver the British, aligning with the emerging global power, the US, while  maintaining an equally friendly relationship with USSR and China and playing an  active role in the “non-aligned” movement. Unfortunately, the opportunity created by  this brilliant policy was wasted and was not leveraged to develop the country and  instead was spent on pageantry to build the cult of HIM. Of course, it is debatable  whether the current international context and alignment of forces permits the pursuit  of nonaligned policies by poor countries such as Ethiopia. 

B. Pursue a “pan-Africanist/anti-colonial policy”: The only continent [and populace  therein] that has not made a dent into development since the end of WW II is Africa,  more so Sub-Saharan Africa. Post-WW II Africa has been the arena where colonial  policies were perpetuated albeit with African figureheads. With time the youth of  Africa has grown fed up with the neo-colonial African state and the leaders heading  them. The emergence and wide appeal of leaders like Thomas Sankara is a testimony  and an early indicator of such reorientations. HoA could possibly be one such region  where a genuine pan-African, savvy, results-focused and capable coalition of nations  emerges. Building such a bloc to face any unwarranted exploitative influence from the  US/West/East could be one option. Again, one can raise a number of doubts and  questions about the feasibility of such an option. 

C. Pursue “strategic partnership and alliance” with the US/West: If you cannot fight  them, join them. Stoop to conquer, as the Chinese say. Make strategic, unwavering  security commitment and partisanship with the West (such as S. Korea, Taiwan,  Singapore, and to a lesser extent Indonesia and Malaysia did) in return for shelter,  protection and tangible economic results, scientific-technological knowledge transfer,  and institution building. This again assumes political elite consensus, professionalized,  honest government institutions that deliver and committed, thinking, nimble  “entrepreneurial” political leadership capable of navigating the Ethiopian state through the turbulent waters of an ever-complex evolving international waters of diplomacy  and geostrategic rivalry.  

D. Pursue “strategic partnership and alliance” with rival powers: Similar to the  above [C] but this time with China, Russia, etc. China did it post WW II. It made a  strategic partnership with USSR until it built its industrial and technological base with  massive Soviet assistance, then pivoted and switched sides in 1978 and allied with the  US/West opening itself up and arrived to where it is now. The Vietnamese followed a  similar path. N. Korea as well. For these countries, their policy was China first,  Vietnam first, Korea first … ideology second. Here too, one can ask many troubling  questions. Is Ethiopia’s social/cultural structure similar to that of the named countries?  Does the requisite political elite consensus exist in Ethiopia now? Is it possible to  build that consensus expeditiously? Such questions and doubts are legitimate and the  comparison with other countries should be subjected to stern tests. 

E. Muddle along: In the absence of any clarity, avoid strategic thinking and keep on  stumbling from one point to another like a drunkard, hoping a big fall will not break us  apart! 

Whatever option is chosen, the underlying assumption for execution [options A-through D]  would be “consensus”, almost unanimity, at least on this single issue of foreign policy,  among the Ethiopian “political class”, however that is defined. For execution, whatever option  is chosen, further assumption is that there would be competent, clean, dedicated  professionalized institutions that plan, execute, follow up and deliver results at every tier in  most critical sectors. This is a tall order. 

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Wubalem,
    You hit the nail on the head with your suggestion “that there would be competent, clean, dedicated professionalized institutions that plan, execute, follow up and deliver results!” Thanks

  2. Subject: We all ask: Why is the US [the West] so much in love with TPLF?, By Wubalem, September 23, 2021

    Humble Commentary, 26 Sept 2021
    I wouldn’t call it “love”. It is a strategy. Let me give my diatribes.
    1. The US and Western Countries in general NEVER wanted the Black AFRICAN PEOPLE to be informed, progressive, advanced, civilized etc etc
    2. The US and Western Countries have always been interested only on the natural richness of the Black African Continent.
    3. To protect the above every conceivable tacts are used, at any cost. Example: The animosity between the WESTERN and EASTERN raivalery. It is NOT, and HAS NEVER BEEN, for humanitarian purposes. NEVER.
    4. It is essential to keep in mind the ENMITY of Africans among themselves. For example, the current situation of enmity between Ethiopia and Tigray is a perfect devilish example.
    5, Let us not continue to be fools: For example, the USA is not in love — by any stretch of imagination — with the Tigryan renegades who are also very smart. Both (USA and Tigray) are very sleek and very smart in their intentions. Alas, in this case, eventually the smart Tigray leadership will lose.
    6. And eventually, the honest ordinary people of Tigray will keep on with their historical hardship, upon which the magnanimous GOD, Up In HEAVEN, is not able to come for the survival of the people of Tigray!? !We don’t know why?!? Would it be due to the ever lasting discrimination between the colours of Black Skin and White Skin ?!?!?
    7. As to the smart aleck initiators of the whole things, they will NOT be around to answer or to help but to be at their secrete sanctuary to save themselves — but NOT for ever, for sure. Eventually, they will pay the price as happened to others in the historical PAST. THE END

    • “The Tigrayan renegades being smart”, I beg to differ. Smart for their own personal/individually- speaking benefit by controlling Tigrayans as useful tools, it has created enemies for Tigrayans while it is amassing wealth and power. It is not say smart isolating Tigrayans hurting Tigrayans against themselves with useless war against their own brothers and sisters.

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