With the Ethiopian government’s relations with the United States and the European Union (EU) at a low level, it is looking elsewhere for new allies to crush the rebellion waged against it by the mountainous Tigray region.
Both the US and the EU have threatened sanctions against the government and its archenemy, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), in an effort to push them to end the nearly year-long conflict that some fear may be as devastating as the civil war that led to the breakup of Yugoslavia.
Kjetil Tronvoll, a professor of conflict studies at Oslo New University College in Norway, said this has led to a shift in the government’s focus.
“The Ethiopian government feels it can do without the West – which can obtain weapons from Iran, Turkey and China, soft loans from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and political protection from Russia and China,” he said, noting that the latter two had already prevented the UN Security Council from agreeing on a resolution on the civil war.
He added that while there was no official confirmation, there were credible reports that the Ethiopian military had obtained Iranian and Turkish-made drones to carry out attacks in Tigray in hopes of reversing the war in its favor.
Canadian Ethiopian analyst Ann Fitz-Gerald said she was concerned about US and EU moves to take “punitive measures” against the government.
“The international community should support the legitimate government of Ethiopia and all three regions [Tigray, Amhara and Afar] affected by the conflict. It should denounce the atrocities of the TPLF and invite it to lay down its arms, “he said, adding that it was also necessary for the government to communicate more clearly and regularly.
Professor Tronvoll said the EU and the US saw Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as a “close strategic partner” when he took office in 2018 and viewed Ethiopia as a “security pin” in a region close to the maritime routes of the Rossa. Mare, a hotbed of Islamist militant activity and a major source of migration to Europe.
‘Their relationship deteriorated after the war began. The US and the EU became increasingly critical of government atrocities and famine-like conditions in Tigray,’ added Professor Tronvoll.
UN officials say a de facto blockade imposed on Tigray by the government has limited aid deliveries, leaving some 400,000 people in famine in the region.
Faisal Roble, a U.S.-based Horn of Africa analyst, said that if the government doesn’t soften its approach, the West could consider creating a humanitarian corridor in Tigray from Sudan, or declare a no. -fly zones over the war-torn region, so That food and medicine could be thrown into the air.
But Ethiopian analyst Wuhibeegzer Ferede warned against “humanitarian imperialism” and “unbridled” diplomatic pressure on the government.
Instead, pressure should be exerted on the TPLF to give the federal government free access to Tigray so it can provide aid to the people there, he said.
“The concern of the international community should not only be for Tigray”, but also for the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar, as a TPLF offensive there too has created a humanitarian crisis, he added.
Downgrading of diplomacy
On 18 August, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced that, while development aid to Ethiopia would continue, the EU planned to impose sanctions against the groups involved in the conflict once the Nations investigation is concluded. Unite on human rights violations.
“Tigray is being destroyed by systematic human rights violations by armed groups that use war crimes and crimes against humanity as a weapon,” he said.
Professor Tronvoll said US President Joe Biden’s administration is also stepping up the pressure through the following measures:
- He has ordered a “legal investigation” into whether or not the atrocities in Tigray are genocide
- He asked the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to withhold some loans to Ethiopia and
- It is considering removing Ethiopia from the list of countries gaining duty-free access to the US market through the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act, in a move that would be a huge political and economic blow to the government.
‘When there is a war and pressure to end it, Ethiopia would be expected to strengthen its diplomatic presence in the US and Europe to win the argument, but the opposite is happening,’ said Professor Tronvoll.
It refers to the fact that the government announced in June the closure or downgrading of some 30 diplomatic missions around the world, including in African states such as neighboring Kenya, the economic powerhouse of East Africa, and Egypt, with which Ethiopia is in disagreement over the construction of a dam on a tributary of the Nile River.
“Ethiopia had one of the oldest and strongest diplomatic corps in Africa, but things are changing under this government,” said Professor Tronvoll.
For UK-based Horn of Africa analyst Abdurahman Sayed, the government announcement marked a step towards “digital diplomacy” to save money and “clean up” the diplomatic missions of TPLF supporters.
“Western countries don’t understand Ethiopia. They are encouraging the TPLF by threatening sanctions against the government,” Sayed said.
“They need to learn from the African Union (AU), which is respectful of the federal government’s jurisdiction over its sovereign territories.”
Professor Tronvoll said US and EU diplomatic pressure was aimed at convincing the government and the TPLF to accept a ceasefire and peace talks under the auspices of the AU.
The AU named former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo its special envoy after Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy rejected the efforts of his previous envoys, including Liberia Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf , to broker a ceasefire.
“The TPLF has welcomed any peace negotiation initiative, but has doubts about Mr. Obasanjo for many reasons, including because he is an evangelical Christian, like Mr. Abiy,” said Professor Tronvoll.
“As for Mr Abiy, he accepted Mr Obasanjo as an envoy, but so far he has not engaged in a peace process,” added Professor Tronvoll.
In a jointly written article in Politico magazine, Alex Rondos and Mark Medish, former senior officials of the EU and US governments respectively, warned that Ethiopia could disintegrate like Yugoslavia, with far more serious repercussions, if efforts to end the conflict are not stepped up.
“This crisis will require diplomacy and mediation on a scale never seen since the 1995 Dayton peace process to end the bloody war in Bosnia,” they wrote.
But Mr. Sayed doubts that any peace process will be successful.
“Ethiopian politics is always a zero-sum game. One side will have to defeat the other,” he said.
More on the Tigray crisis:
- PURPORT: The Tigray War in Ethiopia – and how it broke out
- POINT OF VIEW: Why Tigray is starving but no famine declared
- PROFILE: The Nobel Peace Prize winner who went to war
- Abiy Ahmed
- Tigray People’s Liberation Front
- Tigray crisis
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