Abeje Berhanu, Ph.D.
If my fears are exaggerated, or better still unfounded, I would like to believe that I am day dreaming. However, the indications are that the U.S. has been and is grooming a Taiwan-Ukraine style government in Africa, with Tigray region presenting this opportunity. Let me explain this.
Following the end of WWII, the U.S. imperial ambitions have been firmly established in Europe and in Asia. The USA has gained political, economic, and military dominance in Western Europe; and, this was successfully implemented in Eastern Europe at the end of the cold war. Its policy of isolating and encircling Russia using the former Soviet-era republics and now-turned-to-pro
USA states have been going on in the last 3 decades. It seems that Ukraine has become USA’s recent stronghold and a stepping-stone for the containment of an increasingly powerful and assertive Russia.
In Southeast Asia, the U.S. has been exercising a huge military influence mainly in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. In particular, the Island nation of Taiwan is indebted to USA super-power for helping retain its independence despite China’s interest to retain the Island as part of its provinces following the defeat of Japan in WWII. However, USA’s influence in Taiwan has not been without challenge from China that claims geographical and historical kinship with the Island. The presence of a strongly pro-USA government in Taiwan has allowed the U.S. to bark like a mad dog in China’s backyard. Japan, resulting from its defeat during WWII, has been a junior partner in exercising USA’s imperial hegemony in the region.
However, in Africa, the U.S. has not been able to assert the same level of influence and Africans have been known to have successfully sabotaged USA’s influence in the region. Due to a combination of USA’s ignorance toward Africa and Africans’ reluctance to be neo-colonized by a new super-power, USA has not been lucky to cultivate a dependable partner in the region. Egypt’s clout is only in the middle-East and has a diminished role in sub-Saharan Africa. This was amply demonstrated when Egypt tried to put diplomatic pressure on Ethiopia in relations to the GERD dispute. Most African governments shrugged off Egypt’s attempt to isolate Ethiopia diplomatically, with the exception notably of Sudan’s transitional government that played a spoiler role against black unity.
It is to be recalled that the U.S. tried to plant its foot in Somalia in the early 1990s. That however ended disastrously when captured U.S. soldiers were dragged in the streets of Mogadishu. The Obama administration tried, in vain, to turn Libya into a pro-US government by toppling the
government of Muammar Gadhafi. Both countries are still torn apart by endless conflicts and have not managed to recover from the effects of USA’s unwarranted interventions.
From the USA’s point of view, Africa is too important to be left for China and Russia. The region is on the way to become an economic power house to be reckoned with. It has huge mineral (e.g. gold, platinum, magnesium, phosphate) and agricultural (e.g. land and water) resources which can change Africa into a market hub for the middle-East and for Europe. Some countries (e.g. Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Tanzania) have implemented domestic economic policies with promising economic results. There is a growing willingness among African countries to work together towards economic integration and security alliances. The regional economic groupings (IGAD in Eastern Africa, ECOWAS in West Africa and SADC in Southern Africa) are testimony to this. On the security front, Horn countries with close proximity to the Red Sea, for example, are rumored to have taken further steps of forging security alliances.
The U.S. is closely watching China which has been deepening its economic ties with many African countries and this engagement has resulted in improved infrastructure and expanding market opportunities via the Chinese’s vision of shared benefits. In recent years, Russia has shown keen interest to cooperate with African countries on the military front. Allowing some African countries to access Russian-made modern weaponry (a move announced recently by President Vladimir Putin’s speech at a military show) is an indication that Russia is committed to treating Africa on equal terms. These and related developments in Africa would not go unnoticed by the USA Administration that still considers itself as the single, most important superpower in the world.
There is a reason to believe that the USA must have been secretly working to establish a third axis of “puppet” state in Africa. It would seem that TPLF is ready to do what the USA tells the junta to do as long as it receives diplomatic, material and military support from the USA. This would complete the USA’s power triangle, connecting Africa to Asia, Asia to Europe and then Europe to Africa. Helping TPLF remain a contending force in the Horn is aligned with USA’s long-term strategic interest, and this might include up to the point of encouraging TPLF to establish an independent state. TPLF is heavily indebted to USA’s preferred treatment during its 27 years of iron-fist rule in Ethiopia. The USA, on its part, seems to trust TPLF more than Ethiopia.
That the U.S. has been throughout helping TPLF could not be understatement. It was the U.S. (via Herman Cohen’s diplomatic maneuver at the London conference) that installed the ultra-ethno nationalist group at Arat Kilo in 1991. It was USA that kept silent and continued to provide diplomatic and financial support when TPLF committed gross human right violations (including torturing and killing civilians) against demonstrators in the wake of its capture of Addis Ababa in May 1991. TPLF’s brutality was exposed in the aftermath of the 2005 election marked by mass arrest and killing of hundreds of protesters. USA kept silent and refused to condemn
TPLF’s actions; and instead, its diplomats advised the regime to keep on permanent basis gun bearing soldiers in the streets of Addis Ababa. Again, USA turned a blind eye when TPLF launched a campaign of terror against protesters in Oromia and Amhara regions in the aftermath of the 2015 election. President Obama unapologetically praised EPDRF’s rigged election for winning 100 percent of the parliamentary seats when he visited Ethiopia in July 2015.
Who would be naïve to assume TPLF acted alone when it attacked the northern command in November 2020 unprovoked? Tigray has always been USAID’s stronghold and the aid agency has been a staunch supporter of TPLF in the last 30 years. USAID has built an aid-dynasty there, with the agency’s head, Samantha Power, recently bragging of feeding 6+ million people in Tigray. Considering that USAID is staffed with personnel who might be engaged in gathering security information and espionage activities, it is not hard to believe that news of TPLF preparing an attack on the northern command must have eventually reached USAID officials’ ears in Mekele and beyond. The U.S. must have given a green light for TPLF to disarm the northern command. This has become evident in USA’s one-sided support for TPLF during the 8 month long conflict following the control of Tigray by the Federal government in November 2020.
USA’s subsequent behavior toward the conflict between the federal government and TPLF abundantly demonstrated its long-term intention to crown TPLF with a state of its own. The junta continued to receive unreserved diplomatic and material support from USA even at the time when it was engaged in a reign of terror against the civilian population in Amhara and Afar in the summer of 2021. During its offensive to control the towns of Dessie and the industrial zone of Kombolcha, TPLF was receiving satellite information on ENDF movement. In November 2021, the USA-backed media was bombarding its viewers with the Addis Ababa encirclement narrative and this was quickly used by the USA Federal Aviation Administration that issued a warning that Addis Ababa Bole International Airport was within the firing-range of TPLF’s surface-to-air missile; though, its forces were 200 km away from the capital.
In sum, all the indications are that the U.S. is pushing the TPLF to create a Taiwan-style government in the Horn region. In return, TPLF, it would seem, is ready to play a yes-man role. Both TPLF and USA are aware that controlling Addis Ababa has increasingly become unattainable since Ethiopians from every walk-of-life are resolutely united against TPLF’s return to power. Both have been keen to devour the larger pie – Ethiopia. However, recent events (including TPLF’s much-anticipated offensive against Amhara and Afar regions in August 2022 was met with a decisive blow from ENDF and other coalition forces) are likely to force TPLF to accept the reality and hence to settle for a much smaller pie – Tigray.
The establishment of Tigray as an independent state is likely to turn not just Ethiopia but the entire Horn region into a hotbed of instability and a fertile ground for terrorist groups, with TPLF acting as main sponsor. For generations to come, Ethiopia will become a primary target of TPLF-sponsored terrorism activities: keagame yetetega kulqual hulegeze endalekes yinoral (roughly translated as: a cactus which grows next to a thorny bush always cries). We Ethiopians should heed to State Minister Taye Dendae’s recent tweet: We Africans do not need another Taiwan in the Horn. Hence, we would like to advise our “historical friends” that it is very wise to know our unshakable stance before incurring more costs!
The Horn in general and Ethiopia in particular cannot afford to fall prey to TPLF’s sinister agenda of dismembering this ancient nation with a proud history and proud people. Ethiopia has to remain focused and be stubborn in dealing with TPLF. If not contained decisively, TPLF will leave no stone unturned to wipe out Ethiopia from the map. The enemy (with its expansive tentacles of misinformation and outright lies) is a monster willing to devour alive even the very people it claims to represent as long as it serves its political goal, which is to continue to hold firm grip on power. But TPLF as a political entity is beyond redemption.
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