Monday, January 17, 2022
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Washington Doubles Down in Ethiopia

How the US plunges into the defeat of its own and Western interests in the Horn of Africa

Washington _ Ethiopia
Gregory Copley ( File / Courtesy of the author)

[Re-Published by permission from the Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis journal]

By Gregory Copley
Analysis
From GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs in Addis Ababa.

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It is significant that, even by mid-January 2022, most US politicians and strategic think-tanks were unaware that the US Biden Administration’s State Department had been engaged in fostering and conducting a war in Ethiopia.

No apparent strategic logic or US vital interests had been cited for the discreet US actions, which began with the start of the Joseph Biden Administration in January 2020. And in December 2021 and January 2022, the US State Department doubled down on its support for the Ethiopian marxist rebel militants, the Tigré (Tigray) Popular Liberation Front (TPLF), actively promoting the break-up of the Ethiopian state.

A parallel can be seen in US policy toward the break-up of Yugoslavia and of the Serbian state in the 1990s, and, significantly, many of the US officials engaged in that Balkan process were now back in the US State Dept. The 1990s Balkan misadventures of the Balkan Clinton Administration, in fact, damaged US interests in Europe, possibly irrevocably.

On December 23, 2021, the US terminated Ethiopia’s eligibility for benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) citing its disapproval of the war in the Tigré region. This was the State Dept. response to the reality that the TPLF forces it supported had been finally driven out of the Afar and Amhara regions of Ethiopia, where it is now documented that they had committed extensive humanitarian atrocities. A significant TPLF-funded international information warfare campaign had, for a year, consistently reported that the atrocities had been committed against Tigreans by Federal Government forces, but, as access to the battlefield was now possible for independent observers, it was clear that the TPLF had engaged in classical “blame the victim” psychological operations, and that these information dominance operations had been actively and wittingly supported by the US State Dept.

US Horn of Africa envoy Jeffrey Feltman showed little sensitivity to the celebration in Ethiopia of Orthodox Christmas on January 6, 2021, insisting on a meeting that day in Addis Ababa with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The next day, Prime Minister Abiy announced Christmas political pardons for a number of key Tigrean and Oromo opposition leaders who had been imprisoned. Whether this was response to Feltman’s visit or not is unknown, but it was clearly insufficient for the State Department. Even the release of TPLF co-founder Sibhat Nega, 88 (pictured), who had been in prison for about a year, failed to win any relief from Washington.

To say that Sibhat was a hard-line Tigrean nationalist and committed marxist-leninist would be an understatement. He was regarded by members of other Ethiopian nationalities, particularly the Amhara people, as a ruthless bigot who was a strong advocate of the TPLF’s genocidal warfare operations against them. He was head of the TPLF from 1979-1989, and then was replaced by the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi at its Third Congress. Sibhat’s son, Tekeste Sibhat Nega, took up arms for the TPLF, but was killed in fighting in Tigré on December 19, 2020.

Amnestied detainees included TPLF leaders Sibhat Nega, Kidusan Nega, Abay Woldu, Abadi Zemu, Mulu Gebregziabher, and Kiros Hagos. All had been arrested in late 2020 after the TPLF began its war against the new Government. The amnesties, in the name of “national reconciliation”, also included other opposition figures, such as Jawar Mohammed, a former Abiy ally who headed the Oromo Media Network. Another amnestied individual is Eskinder Nega, a long-time activist. The expectation is that their release would “make the upcoming national dialogue successful and inclusive”.

None of this was enough for US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and, in the face of an earlier failed pressures on Ethiopia and a failure to mobilize a pan-African political isolation of Abiy’s Government, he had US Pres. Joe Biden make a direct telephone call on January 10, 2022, to Prime Minister Abiy. This, too, failed to get Washington’s desired results.

Dr Abiy called the telephone talk “candid” — diplomatic language for disagreement and lack of progress — but did Pres. Biden even notice that he had not gained the trust of the Ethiopian Prime Minister? An official White House statement that day said that Pres. Biden had commended Dr Abiy on the release of “several political prisoners” and other things. Even describing the amnestied detainees as “political prisoners”, when they were arrested and charged with actual criminal behavior, was part of the Washington dismissal of the Abiy Government’s legitimacy, and did not go unnoticed.

And Abiy, in any event, faced a domestic backlash from Ethiopians who resented the release of the TPLF figures who had been engaged in systematic suppression of non-Tigreans from 1991 to 2018.

Prime Minister Abiy was also getting some public pushback against his set of promotions on January 8, 2022, of a number of senior Ethiopian National Defense Force officials, many of who were seen by the public as having performed poorly against the military campaign against the TPLF and other terrorist and militia organizations which had joined with the TPLF during the past year.

The ENDF suffered massive setbacks at the hands of the TPLF for almost a year before it recovered sufficiently, with the help of Amhara and Afar militias, to drive the TPLF back into Tigré. What was publicly questioned most was the promotion of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Berhanu Jula to the rank of Field Marshal, the first military officer in Ethiopia to attain the rank. Emperor Haile Selassie I was also a field marshal, but not of the Ethiopian Army. Queen Elizabeth II made him an honorary field marshal in the British Army.

Prime Minister Abiy promoted Gen. Berhanu “in light of his extraordinary acts in the face of a national crisis”. The Prime Minister Abiy created four full generals including Gen. Abebaw Tadesse, who was victim of forced retirement during TPLF control of the Federal Government (until 2018). As well, 14 major-generals were also upgraded to lieutenant-general rank, and 24 brigadier-generals were promoted to major-general, and 56 colonels were promoted to brigadier-general. In all, some 100 officers were promoted as a result of the still-incomplete military operation against the TPLF, an act made all the more significant because the TPLF was an internal adversary of the Government. The promotions were nominally announced by the Governor-General as head-of-state.

But, on balance, Dr Abiy was being seen by Ethiopians to be making progress against both the TPLF and the external opposition. Moreover, there is no other potential leader visible within the political structure and Ethiopians in general were happy that they had made strong progress back toward credible elections in 2021.
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9 COMMENTS

  1. Okay, let Abiy go but I want him to be replaced by the Republic of Amhara, Oromia, Tigray, Afar, Somalia and Sidama, The rest should be handed over to Kenya, South Sudan and Sudan. Wait a minute I almost forgot about the Republic of Black Mane Lion, Snot Nosed Shrew, Colobus Monkey and a Special Administration Territory within The Republic of Oromia to be ruled a lawyer in Minnesota, a professor in Virginia and the ones in London and Melbourne with Chief of Staffs from Oslo and Tufts University. Problem solved!!! See how I made it easy for you? Y’all were just wasting your time. You should have consulted me even before Abiy was born! Slackers!!!

  2. Let’s make one point certain. There is a huge fundamental difference between TPLF and the current Ethiopian government. In Ethiopia, dissent in opinion against decisions made by the Ethiopian government is becoming possible in the open where as in Tigray’s TPLF, deviation from TPLF’s talk points by the Tigrean mass is tantamount to a death sentence. There is clearly a flourishing or at the very least, an attempt for establishing the norms of democratic governance and responsible free press by the current Ethiopian government whereas the curtain for democratic governance and accountability is permanently closed in TPLF controlled Tigray. The Ethiopian people, other opposing political parties should continue to question and demand answers and explanations from PM Abiy. PM Abiy also should take these as opportunities to demonstrate his commitment to democracy , and responsible and responsive governance that is in its nascent stage and trying to take a foothold in Ethiopia. It is extremely sad and disappointing that the Biden Administration failed to live up to the US commitment to democracy, freedom, equality and rule of law. Blinken’s condescending, belittling and arrogant, TPLF driven one sided narrative in this sad saga, his over estimation of the importance of certain actors in the horn as compared to what he did not consider as an ally, despite over a century old history to the contrary, are all contributing factors. It has not been possible for the immigrant and US born population of Ethiopian origin in the US to fathom and reconcile the Biden’s administration policy in the horn. As demonstrated in the Virginia election, a schism in the democrat coalition and migration of voters to the Republican Party and other third party alternatives are inevitable as voters who were clearly but indirectly told they do not belong in the tent will go elsewhere in 2022, foreboding a disastrous midterm election.

  3. I just wish that Abiy and Co see their surroundings with a bigger lens than that’s going to be prescribed by the west. TPLF is made up of not just who think that they are ethnically superior Tigrayans but also contains an unholy union of Eritrean misfits of two kind. Those that carry tigrign/aga’azi identity that are still (jealously and wistfully) resentful of Menilik (his expansion and imposition of Amharic) to date. And those who ran to the Middle East to fight the west for controlling HIM like a mannequin but strangely enough are now in the pay book of the west. It’s this union that the Eritrean gov’t has called for a “ክተት” from the get go. Eritrea (not for its democratic undoings) should be a warning for the Amhara and the Afari states.

    If the Ethiopian state or union is to last then it has find a way to shunt Tigray out of it; for pacifying it is going to be a hell of a task due to the sheer number combatants it has. I simply don’t see how this monstrously assemble Tigrayan army would be civilian again; not just for the poor Ethiopia bust also the west itself. So when the west throws tantrums it’s telling you that it can’t feed, untrained and retrain a near 6 million combatants that has known nothing but hate to its surroundings; north as well as south.

  4. No amount of compromise can satisfy rhe USA, tplf or promo extremists. Only the total disappearance of al things Ethiopia and Amhara can satisfy the last goond. So, how to go forward with this curse on you…I say, continue the struggle of existence.

  5. I just wish that Abiy and Co see their surroundings with a bigger lens than that’s going to be prescribed by the west. TPLF is made up of not just who think that they are ethnically superior Tigrayans but also contains an unholy union of Eritrean misfits of two kind. Those that carry tigrign/aga’azi identity that are still (jealously and wistfully) resentful of Menilik (his expansion and imposition of Amharic) to date. And those who ran to the Middle East to fight the west for controlling HIM like a mannequin but strangely enough are now in the pay book of the west itself. It’s this union that the Eritrean gov’t has called for a “ክተት” from the get go. Eritrea (not for its democratic undoings) should be a warning for the Amhara and the Afari states.

    If the Ethiopian state or union is to last then it has to find a way to shunt Tigray out of it until the state puts its house in order, for pacifying it is going to be a hell of a task due to the sheer number of combatants it has. I expect that Abiy (the noble prize got to his head) has learned this lesson from last year. I simply don’t see how this monstrously assemble Tigrayan army would be civilian again; not just for the poor Ethiopia bust also for the west itself. So when the west throws tantrums it’s telling you that it can’t feed, untrained and retrain a near 6 million combatants that has known nothing but hate to its surroundings; north as well as south.

  6. The problem with the Biden’s administration position on Ethiopia as expressed by the various statements of its state department is the end goal. Ethiopia cannot and MUST NOT negotiate with TPLF leaders that have launched an attack against its federal forces. Treason, crimes against humanity and invasion of Amhara and Afar territories cannot be justified under any circumstances. Mr. Herman Cohen had suggested TPLF must accept the inevitable truth that it has lost the war and must cease to exist for peace to become possible. Tsadkan, Getachew Reda, Debre Tsion etc. must surrender to the Ethiopian federal forces immediately. There is no ifs and buts about this position. The idiotic but inadvertently honest answer from Tsdakan’s own answer as to why TPLF established the so called killil or ethnic enclosure federalism in Ethiopia was, “that was our understanding of it, i.e. federalism then”. There is one federal law that governs all regions in Ethiopia. There is no exception to Tigray. Abiy was elected with an overwhelming majority and a mandate to secure the safety and security of all 120 millions in Ethiopia. He cannot afford to play pastor and premier at the same time. Negotiating with the TPLF leaders will result in loss of support for Abiy and devalue of the sacrifices made by defense forces which he leads as commander in chief. There is one and only path to peace and security in Ethiopia: TPLF MUST DISARM, DEMOBILIZE AND SURRENDER TO ETHIOPIAN FEDERAL FORCES!!!

  7. We will see the slow Ethiopian movement is rather focusing on the game that those affecting Ethiopians gave them to play rather than on the Tplf. Tplf members have been told to change thir profile yo Amara names to show opposition to Dr. Aby. Indeed the government must focus on the continuing support it gets from the people and must create and build trust with the people at the same time the people do the same instead of playing along with those against Ethiopia and proritize Tplf and supporting the government.

    The government and people must work with people like Mr. Copley who is a truth seeker. Seek out those friends of Ethiopia. Stop being hijacked by the fake ones

  8. Thank you…..Well it is about time for honest and precise news to come out. The other crime besides the above well addressed article spreading TPLF’s genocidal criminal activities to OLF Shene and Benishangul Gumuz barbaric rebel groups that are hiding woods and forest but train in plain view of the zone administrations.
    TPLF and its messenger OLF have massacred Amhara people in systematical TPLF’s genocidal warfare and fabricated false story to blame Amhara for all their problems. Behind this plot is a well planned strategy to steal land, properties and wealth from hard working Amhara as we are witnessing both TPLF and OLF Shene are engaged doing.
    Amharas have suffered and many are slaughtering in the hands of Oromo OLF Shene rebels in Wollega and TPLF made Oromia zone where Amharas lived for centuries and have no government body to represent them.

    This barbarism will not stop unless OLF leaders are either apprehended or held accountable for loss of humans life and financial loss by paying fines and penalties to Amhara victims of t crimes against humanity..

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