OPINION: By Kungu Al-mahadi Adam
An Executive Order issued by U.S President, Joe Biden this week, on imposing sanctions on “certain persons” with respect to the ongoing human rights violations in Ethiopia’s Tigray area and neighboring regions, raises concern pertaining its motive in matters Ethiopia and its future.
For more than two years now, innocent people including children and elderly have suffered all forms of abuse from killings, displacement and rape to children being used as soldiers – violations orchestrated by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), an organization designated as terrorist group by the country’s House of representatives.
The group which brutally ruled the country for 27 years from 1991 to 2018, is angered by the unexpected loss of the disproportionate influence and undue privilege they enjoyed while in power. They have since 2018 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took over country’s leadership involved in activities aimed at toppling him including the unprovoked violent attack by the on Federal forces in November last year that sparked the current crisis.
They wanted to acquire the national army’s possession which was in the region and illegally and forcefully change the leadership of the country, thanks to the swift response by national security that repulsed them.
Meanwhile, despite the provocations, the federal government put in place efforts to restore peace in Tigray including declaring a unilateral ceasefire in June, sending elders to Tigray for dialogue and negotiation and allowing access to humanitarian support in the affected regions – which are/were all undermined and rejected by the TPLF.
But to the dismay of many of us, the international community including the U.S, has consistently ignored all those efforts, but instead propagates a narrative as though the Ethiopian authorities orchestrated the ugly developments in Tigray.
They have amplified claims by TPLF propagandists both inside and outside Ethiopia who acting victim of their own insurrection and crimes on the people of Ethiopia.
Prior to this week’s sanction threats, the Biden administration had for months warned that it would sanction the Ethiopian government and its allies for the human-rights abuses, war crimes, and other mass atrocities they have allegedly committed in their year-long war with the TPLF.
Did the U.S want the Ethiopian government to look on as the TPLF rebels commit war crimes on innocent Ethiopians? I thought the intervention would have been working with the legitimate government and supporting it to defeat criminals.
The U.S has never appreciated efforts by government to resolve the situation in Tigray and neither has it ever condemned atrocities by the TPLF and this was explicit in the latest threats of imposing sanctions, raising suspicion on what their motive is in matters Ethiopia.
The Biden administration gave government and the rebels a few more weeks to engage in serious negotiations, cease their attacks on civilians, and open up the free flow of humanitarian assistance before sanctions are imposed. They said that designations will come “in weeks not months” if progress isn’t made quickly.
The Abiy administration has put in place all avenues of ending the conflict and they are public. What else does the U.S want a legitimate government to do? Succumbing to rebels? Negotiating to hand criminals power?
It should be noted that these threats of sanctions by the US State Department are not on TPLF, but on Ethiopia. The reason for this disastrous US foreign policy is supposedly to push for political negotiations.
Nobody can gain the benefits of peace and dialogue while at war or armed against the state, or while rejecting the whole legitimacy of the federal government. This is why, even ignoring all the atrocities committed by TPLF, any negotiation with TPLF that is not disarmed and with Tigray that is not under Federal authority, will not only be unacceptable but it also set a dangerous precedent in Ethiopian politics.
It will imply a major step backward in the recent democratization efforts in not only Ethiopia but Africa as a continent. It will signal to dissidents nationwide that waging a violent and successful insurrection is what puts you ahead of the line and at the top of the negotiating table with a bigger chair.
This sends the wrong signals, not only to opposition groups, but also to sub-national state parties and armed regional governments (who all have grievances of one form or another).
It will trigger the beginning of a lawless Ethiopia at the regional state level and will eventually lead to state collapse and civil wars nationwide.
It is a fact that TPLF, waged war against a legitimate government in Ethiopia and has committed dozens of crimes on the Ethiopian people including those against the international law.
Biden’s threats are an icing sugar on the problem in Tigray and could actually prolong the conflict. He U.S is not coming out to respond to the crisis with objectivity.
For example, the children in Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions are forced and fronted to work for TPLF as its fighters. Many girls joined the conflict fearing repercussions such as rape and being sex slaves. Why hasn’t the U.S condemned it?
Many of these children who escape narrate horrible stories of how TPLF captured and mercilessly meted all sorts of violence onto them with the soul purpose of seeing them fight with and for them, purportedly to defend Tigray, out of a feeling of revenge on the country’s federal leadership.
This evil decision of the TPLF made the children and elders the first victim of the conflict and Ethiopian government has an obligation to rescue the children.
If any Western government seeks to promote peace in northern Ethiopia, it must realign its foreign policy to match this reality, otherwise it is not only a violation of Ethiopian sovereignty but it starts to appear like another “mutation of neocolonialism,” as Prime Minister Abiy described in his open letter to US President Joe Biden.
Look, The government of Ethiopia has taken every necessary effort to provide support to its citizens affected by the operation in the region but these efforts are hampered by the rebels who have taken it upon themselves to kill aid workers and using civilian soldiers to conduct attacks.
The UN this week said none of the 149 trucks in the convoy that reached Tigray’s capital Mekelle, last week returned. Only 38 out of 466 trucks that entered Tigray since 12 July returned.
Humanitarian organisations need trucks to deliver lifesaving assistance to people in Tigray but that is not possible courtesy of TPLF who reportedly block the return of trucks. Why is the U.S silent on the matter? What is so hard in telling off Tigray regional leaders? Isn’t the U.S tempting the world to read an alliance between them and the terrorists meting havoc on innocent Ethiopians?
The current US foreign policy is even worse and it has become more destructive than just a neo-colonialist rhetoric. The U.S continues with actions and statements legitimizing TPLF insurrection, which has given fuel to the Tigrayan rebellion.
Western selective outrage has cultivated this alternative universe where the Tigrayan insurrectionists are victims that must continue the insurrection to get out of the perceived victim hood, perpetuating a cycle of self-destructive violence threatening to wipe out hundreds of thousands of Tigrayan fighters.
Thousands of Tigrayan people have been emboldened by the West to join the TPLF insurrection in Tigray that has also transformed into a genocidal slaughter of Amhara and Afar people. This genocidal escalation has lowered the possibility of TPLF having any role in Ethiopian politics, let alone “negotiate” to regain power in Ethiopia.
U.S support has inspired TPLF to continue the fight. Even TPLF leader Getachew Reda openly praised the United States’ partisan and antagonistic stance against Addis Ababa on Friday, after he told Egypt TV that TPLF will break apart Ethiopia like Yugoslavia on Thursday.
Instead of condemning its transgressions and demanding TPLF to disarm, America’s latest punitive threats on Ethiopia means TPLF will gain more recruits and thus more Tigrayan-Ethiopians will die in a futile attempt to restore Tigrayan supremacy in the horn of Africa.
This is unconscionable and unfortunate, and yet another destructive U.S role on the global stage.
The writer is a Ugandan Journalist with passion for current African affairs.