Why America’s Policy on Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa is Flawed


Despite its imperfections, the United States has one of the oldest and most successful examples of constitutional breakthroughs in the world. The Constitution of the United States emerged as a result of the historically difficult but cautious compromises of its drafters.

Learning from the shortcomings of the country’s first founding document, the Articles of Confederation, the current Constitution drafted in 1789 also led to the birth of the current American system of federalism.

Unlike an inefficient and costly confederation that gave power to 13 consolidated states after the US War of Independence, the new Federal Constitution balanced political power between the national government in Washington, DC and that of the states and their states. local governments.

Since its inception, however, the United States Constitution has not been immune to many constitutional debates or state-to-state tensions that have found themselves under judicial review by the Supreme Court of the States. United and which created both good and bad legal precedents that still define federal relations in the country.

To mention one major achievement, among others, the US federal system also ensured the implementation of what is known as the “national standard,” a system of direct, conditional, and frozen federal grants that guaranteed economic growth. more or less similar across the 50 states of the country.

For example, thanks to such a system, an American who hopes to move from any small town in North Dakota or Alabama to big cities like Chicago or New York would still have access to quality health care, to educational opportunities, immediate employment and the right to enjoy all the benefits that residents of his new state receive.

With such a functioning system of governance, any impediment to the free movement of people, goods and services is also never a concern.

The non-American approach

Sadly, when it comes to the system of government and governance that the United States wants for others, especially third world countries that depend on foreign economic aid, it has always been evident that their approach was wrong. .

A recent statement by the US State Department that called for upholding Ethiopia’s flawed federal ethnic accord is one example.

Unlike the US federal system, Ethiopia’s ethnic federal arrangement is a failing system that illegally constituted the country’s internal borders according to ethnic and linguistic classifications.

Such an arrangement has now proven to be a time bomb when it comes to the unity of the Ethiopian people and the territorial integrity of the nation.

Case in point

After the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (TPLF), the political party that was in charge of the regional state of Tigray, launched a sudden and preemptive series of horrific attacks against the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) of By its own admission, Ethiopia’s federal government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed responded with military countermeasures that defeated rebel forces in just three weeks.

Sadly, thanks to a dysfunctional ethnic federal system that benefits ethnically organized political parties and ethnic rebellions, the people of Tigray have fully embraced the insurgency of rebel militias against the same ENDFs that had defended and protected them for over two decades, since the war with Eritrea. erupted in 1998.

The support of the people of Tigray for such an ethnic terrorist rebellion, solely because of an ethnic name that identifies them, has always been contrary to their own deep interest, which is to live in peace with the rest of the Ethiopians and to fight for nothing but their own prosperity.

Unfortunately, the case of Tigray and the TPLF is a potential bad precedent for other radical ethno-nationalist forces to follow in other parts of Ethiopia.

This is why the current administration of the Ethiopian government, led by Abiy Ahmed, has made its voice heard by pointing out the flaws in the current system of federal arrangement which pits one Ethiopian group against another.

As a sad consequence of such a system, Ethiopia is struggling to support and resettle the tens of thousands of internally displaced citizens.

This is why many Ethiopian academics, past and current officials and peace-loving people in general continue to push for a possible constitutional amendment to such a flawed government structure that has largely prevented the national government from being able to stand up to it. tackle many political issues, social and economic challenges.

Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa

No Ethiopian denies that the United States has played many critical supporting roles in the country’s economic development.

Its economic aid has contributed to many health, education and social development efforts. His considerable military assistance over the years has also helped strengthen the ENDF which has actively aided US counterterrorism strategies in the Horn of Africa.

Nonetheless, it would not be surprising to see the Ethiopian government and citizens in general now bewildered by recent approaches to US foreign policy in the Horn of Africa in general and Ethiopia in particular.

For example, the country’s dream infrastructure project known as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which has been under construction for over a decade and fully funded by Ethiopia, has not received recognition. that he deserves from what was once an ally, the United States

On the contrary, as the political orientations of the ill-informed administration of former US President Donald Trump have previously shown, the current administration of US President Joe Biden has continued to openly side with Egypt, a country that has dug deep to create one obstacle after another. stop an Ethiopian development effort that strives to lift its poor citizens out of poverty and provide electricity to the more than 60 million of them who do not have access to it.

The Ethiopians expected much better from the Biden administration, which they hoped would deviate from the non-diplomatic advice of its predecessor which even openly suggested an Egyptian military strike against such a hydropower development project.

The Tigray conflict

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s current statement calling for misguided approaches to end the Tigray conflict has also openly sided with a rebel group declared a terrorist organization by the People’s House of Representatives. Ethiopia.

A lawyer by training who should have a good understanding of the subject of federalism studies, Blinken’s poor approaches to Ethiopia are both mistaken and surprising.

To make matters worse, the secretary’s call for the preservation of Ethiopia’s flawed constitution and problematic internal regional administrative borders also goes beyond the mere unnecessary interference of a superpower in the internal affairs of a nation. proud nation like Ethiopia which has retained its independence for many historical periods. .

A building is seen through a bullet hole in a window of the Africa Hotel in the town of Shire, in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, on March 16, 2021. (Photo Reuters)

A major mistake in the recent American approach to Ethiopian politics is also how the current Biden administration and his State Department have attempted to divide Ethiopians based on their ethnic affiliations.

For example, by pointing the finger at the Amhara people and their regional special police and militia forces that have helped the ENDF protect the nation’s territorial integrity, the United States has shown that it actually cares less. Ethiopia’s national unity and its own. means of constitutionally settling internal border problems.

Indeed, Blinken’s misunderstanding of the country’s politics would have benefited Africanist scholars who have done extensive research on Ethiopia’s ethnic federal system. Then he could have been aware of the marginalization of the Amhara people and other ethnic communities like the Afar, Somali and The Gambia and how they suffered from such a flawed pseudo-apartheid governance system over the past three years. decades.

Time for a new examination

If the United States aspires to protect its vital long-standing interests and democratic values ​​in its dealings with Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, it is time to reset its ill-consulted policies pushed by paid American lobbyists. Egyptian and Tigrayan rebels – organizations that are interested in nothing but the destabilization of the Ethiopian state – and anti-Ethiopian forces hoping for the disintegration of the country along ethnic lines.

Therefore, U.S. officials should learn a lesson or two from the cautious approaches taken by sub-Saharan African states, the Intergovernmental Authority on the Development of East African States (IGAD), eastern powers such as the China and the Russian Federation and other partner countries like Turkey.

The most important lesson for the Biden administration would be to first research and learn about the underlying historical and current challenges, and then defend the national unity of all Ethiopians. He should not continue with his impartial support for a belligerent rebel group like the TPLF.

In addition, it is also time to take a renewed look at what has become a black anti-African approach manifested by the United States’ open bias for a regional international actor like Egypt which has always worked to undermine the aspiration to the development of the Abay (Nile) basin countries in general and the Ethiopian State and its more than 110 million citizens hope for anything but internal instability in particular.

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