Draft Bills with Range of Sanctions Affecting Ethiopia, USA Relations: Prof. Ann Fitz-Gerald

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Addis Ababa March 24/2022 /ENA/  The draft bills HR 6600 and S3199 are negatively affecting the relations between Ethiopia and the US, Professor Ann Fitz-Gerald noted.

In an exclusive interview with ENA, International Security Professor Ann Fitz-Gerald said the relationship between Ethiopia and US had broken down over the last 18 months.

Notwithstanding this, there has been communication by both countries demonstrating a commitment towards improving the relationship and working together, she added. 

Even if there have been some signs of more recent two-way cooperation between the two countries, there are still some very large and brutal ‘sticks’ with perhaps less ‘carrots’ in sight, according to Fitz-Gerald.

In relation to the challenges that the US has taken issue to, these ‘sticks’ appear to be being applied in a somewhat uneven way with no sanctions or even a threat of a sanction, lodged at the feet of the group who initiated, expanded and prolonged the conflict, the professor revealed, adding that this same group is in fact still prolonging the conflict as it has re-invaded and re-occupied 5 districts in Afar. 

The ‘sticks’ are not only the HR 6600 and S3199 bills, but also the cessation of Ethiopia’s membership in AGOA; and these are debilitating measures for the country which will only hurt those at the bottom of the food chain, she noted.

According to the professor, sanctions will also adversely affect regions which have already been hit very hard by conflict, including Tigray, Afar and Amhara.

There is also an implication that those who may step in to support an Ethiopia under sanction will be punished by the US, and therefore deterred from providing such support, she explained. 

The sanctions in the draft bills call for an independent investigation team to come into Ethiopia and carry out investigations into conflict-related human rights violations with no recognition towards the Joint Investigation Team.

“I think that the final thing I would say is these big ‘sticks’, in the form of very punitive sanctions, pay no regard or give no credit to all of the gestures which the government has made towards the US demands over the past 12 months,” Fitz-Gerald elaborated.

More specifically, she pointed out that the Government of Ethiopia made various efforts to bring peace and committed to not crossing into Tigray. In January, political prisoners — including TPLF leaders, were released, the six-month State of Emergency was ended after three months, and efforts continue to support humanitarian aid deliveries into the conflict affected regions. 

Ann Fitz-Gerald, who is also the Director of the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo, Canada, said despite these gestures, no ‘sticks’ or any elements of the ‘sticks’ have been dropped. 

On the side of the US Government, all ‘sticks’ are still being pursued.

Asked about why the US representatives put pressure on Ethiopia at this level, the professor said it seems that since the early stages of the conflict, there has been a strong effort for some members of the US Congress to pursue a ‘domestic genocide designation’ against the Government of Ethiopia and sanctions against leaders. 

This agenda continues to be driven by the same officials and lobbyist groups, despite the Report of the JIT confirming that no genocide had taken place, she pointed out. 

The same group of officials is pushing for the genocide designation and sanctions continue, with statements being made by these individuals paying no regard to the atrocities committed outside of Tigray or the TPLF’s re-invasions and re-occupations back into Afar, Fitz-Gerald noted. 

“This indicates that the evidence-based analysis underpinning these bills remains flawed and skewed in favour of one party to the conflict.” 

The professor suggested that the US Government and other western countries hear from Ethio-American diaspora authoritative, well-articulated and evidence-based ground-based views of what the passing of these bills will do to a country which, at the same time, the US wishes to see stable and peaceful. 

“We know that sanctions are not a passing fad…, they linger and their effects are felt for years. Even today, despite sanctions having been lifted in Sudan, many will describe that the limitations that the Sudanese people and Sudan’s economy still face as a result of the lingering impact of the sanctions. ”

The professor noted: “I make this point because other African nations will no doubt also be watching with concern and may also speak out against the imposition of these persistently harsh and brutal ‘sticks’ – despite the many gestures which the Government of Ethiopia has made in response to US requests. ”

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