Aklog Birara (Dr)
March 4, 2021.
Part III of III
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going”
An American saying
Ethiopia faces tough hurdles from all corners of the world. Its Western friends including the Government of the United States are among the most significant critics of Ethiopia’s “mismanagement” of the TPLF initiated war and the ensuing humanitarian crisis in Tigray, Ethiopia.
As we celebrate our Adwa Victory, and more important, at trying times like today, the single most important option for Ethiopia is national resolve and national unity including a sense of common purpose, Ethiopians cannot depend on any external power or force in defending their homeland. Two significant developments this week alone compel us to reflect how we can preserve Ethiopia’s territorial integrity, its sovereignty and security interests.
In my assessment the very survival of Ethiopia is at stake. Ethiopians need to close their ethnic silos once and for ever.
The two developments I have in mind are the following:
The first concern I am going to highlight is America’s undue interference in Ethiopia’s domestic affairs. Part III of this series deals with this. It has far reaching implications for the future of Ethiopia.
- On March 2, 2021, barely one week after the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the American Embassy in Addis Ababa issued successive statements singling out and urging that “Amhara Special Forces and the Eritrean Army to withdraw from Tigray,” the Secretary spoke to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed reiterating America’s position. Spokesman Ned Price “emphasized that the United States is concerned about the humanitarian and human rights crisis in the Tigray region” citing “credible reports of atrocities and human rights violations and abuses.”
On the surface, this gives the impression that Ethiopians and the Government of Ethiopia caused the problem; and do not care about Tigrean-Ethiopians. This conclusion is wrong. It is precedent setting for the entire Sub-Saharan Africa. It gives legitimacy to an illegitimate and terrorist group.
- Ned Price quotes the Secretary of State who “urged the Ethiopian Government to take immediate, concrete steps to protect civilians, including refugees; prevent further violence” and impressed the Prime Minister “for immediate end to hostilities and the withdrawal of outside forces from Tigray, including Amhara regional security forces and Eritrean troops.”
The above demand is direct interference by the Government of the United States in the internal affairs of a sovereign and independent country, Ethiopia. It is therefore unacceptable. It violates Ethiopia’s sovereignty.
I underscore the fact that the TPLF came to power through massive logistics, intelligence, financial and diplomatic support from the Arab world and Western democracies. It had unabashed loyalty to ethnic politics; to a class of party and state thieves; and to external powers. Admired by the Western democracies as one of Africa’s rising stars, Meles Zenawi crafted and championed Ethiopia’s alliance with the United States on the war against terrorism.
What is missing is this. Ethiopia’s relations with Western democracies began during the war in the Korean Peninsula to which Ethiopians contributed. The pro-Soviet Socialist regime notwithstanding, people to people relationships between the U.S. and Ethiopia remained strong. Ethiopia is one of the most important contributors to peacekeeping operations in Africa today.
Western support and encouragement of terrorist groups, interference in Ethiopia’s domestic affairs and cuts in aid volumes to Ethiopia will have significant adverse effects not only for Ethiopia, but also for the entire Horn of Africa. The region will explode with far reaching and lasting consequences.
A precedent setting event at the UN Security Council
In an unprecedented move, the chorus of misguided assessment across the Western world based on incomplete and biased data and analysis led to a closed session of the UN Security Council on March 4, 2021. To their credit, Russia and China, core members of the Council and India, non-Permanent member dismissed the proposed inflammatory statement against Ethiopia.
There is no parallel in history that I can find that sponsors of the hearing on behalf of remnants of a terrorist group would champion this move. The TPLF is a discredited cruel, inhumane, and corrupt group that stood firm and conspired to Balkanize one of the most important countries in Africa. The TPLF is a terrorist organization. It committed treason. Over more than four decades, 27 of these while in power, the TPLF murdered tens of thousands of Oromo, Somali, Annuak, Amhara and other innocent civilians. In November last year, the TPLF youth group, Samra, slaughtered more than 1,200 Amhara in Mai Kadra, most of them daily laborers. There is numerous Mai Kadra like genocides in Ethiopia, Yet Western institutions failed to voice their outrage and to hold the TPLF and its allies accountable.
Where is the justice in this asymmetrical treatment of an African nation?
There is one area with which I agree with the US Secretary of State. He is right in asking the Government of Ethiopia “to work with the international community” in providing humanitarian support to affected Tigrean-Ethiopians. But I suggest to the Secretary of State that there are millions of non-Tigrean victims too that deserve humanitarian support.
More relevant, I find it inexplicable why Secretary Blinken either failed or refrained from acknowledging that the Government of Ethiopia is currently providing 70 percent of the humanitarian aid in Tigray, with the rest provided by the international community. The Government is also providing ample access to the international community. UNICEF, the WFP etc. and media outlets such as Al-Jazeera have been given ample access. Sadly, these “good Samaritans” also show bias and partisanship in their activities and in their reporting. Why is that?
UN specialized organizations have so far failed to refrain from political interference. For example, media outlets and UN vehicles are cultivated to provide safe exist to members of TPLF members whose primary loyalty is to the same terrorist group that triggered the war in Tigray and caused the immense humanitarian crisis. The victims themselves are being used as fodders of misinformation against Ethiopia and the Ethiopian people,
The Amhara are not Ethiopia’s “boogey folks” any more
- As a sovereign and independent country, Ethiopia has the right to deploy internal forces including Amhara. Oromo, Somali, Annuak etc. to maintain peace and security; and to restore law and order in any part of the country. In the Amhara region, the Amhara Special Forces are part and parcel of Ethiopia’s defense structure.
The international community, including the Government of the United States must not forget the fact that for almost 30 years, Tigrean-Ethiopians literally dominated all policy and decision-making posts in Ethiopia including its national intelligence, security, defense, and diplomatic corps. Today, Amhara Special Forces in Wolkait, Tegede, Telemt and Raya have every tight to defend the population that was dehumanized and brutalized for more than 40 years by the TPLF. These lands were annexed by the TPLF; they no longer belong to the Tigray region. Tigrean-Ethiopians have the right to live and work in these lands the same way that Amhara have the right to live and work in all parts of Ethiopia.
- The Ethiopian Government has already begun conducting credible investigations and legal measures against those accused of crimes against humanity, treason against Ethiopia and its institutions, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. Persons accused of murders and genocide including those who perpetrated murders against non-Tigrean Ethiopian officers and soldiers in Mekele and accused of wholesale massacres in Mai Kadra by the TPLF armed unit called Samra must be held accountable for crimes of war, crimes against humanity and genocide.
Western democracies must apply the same rule here as they do in any part of the world.
Are all human beings equal?
It stuns me that Western democracies, UN specialized agencies such as UNICEF and human rights institutions such as Amnesty International and renowned media such as CNN did not give coverage to the numerous Mai Kadra like slaughters of innocent civilians, especially Amhara or to the unprovoked invasion of Ethiopia by the Sudan and its annexation of large tracts of Ethiopian fertile lands or to the geopolitical and security implications of the military defense pact between Egypt and Sudan reported by the Arab media this week or to the capture and destruction of property owned by Ethiopians by the Sudan or to the proxy war conducted by Egypt on Ethiopia.
I would like to pose a question to the international community.
“Why did the UN Security Council fail to hold an emergency session on Sudan’s invasion of Ethiopia? Why was it quick to hold such a session on Tigray against Ethiopia? “
UN specialized agencies and international media such as CNN gave credence to non-reliable sources regarding human rights violations in Tigray. I too condemn any such violation, especially rape and murder. For instance, last week, Amnesty International reported that hundreds of civilians were massacred by Eritrean soldiers in the town of Axum in November 2020. It failed to report that domestic sources disputed that these killings did even occur.
On the other hand, more than 1,200 Amhara, most of their day laborers were slaughtered by the TPLF Samra unit in Mai Kadra, a village annexed by the TPLF. Is this not a serious human rights violation or war crime under international law?
What happened to parity and or integrity in reporting?
In summary, any defense of the TPLF that stimulated all the above and more crimes against humanity as well as treason against Ethiopia and its sacred institutions is indefensible, immoral, and unjust. It is also hypocritical. Russia, China, and India took the right position on the matter in the UN Security Council; and I commend them for this principled position.
Against the above travesty, it is noteworthy that Secretary Blinken “acknowledged Ethiopia’s recent announcement of full and unhindered humanitarian access in Tigray; reiterated that the United States remains ready to assist in resolving the conflict; and highlighted the United States’ commitment to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations throughout Ethiopia.”
I welcome America’s commitment to provide humanitarian assistance to Ethiopia. This is an area where the United States and other Western democracies can play a constructive role in Ethiopia. The other area is to encourage remnants of the lawless TPLF to abandon its war like approach in the settlement of conflicts.
Humanitarian assistance will have durable impact when Western democracies including the United States and UN specialized agencies first and foremost recognize Ethiopia’s sovereign rights. They must give credence and recognition to the fact that the Ethiopian people fought and defeated Italian colonialism.
They must recognize and welcome that for the first time since the current ruling party took power in 1991, tens of millions of Ethiopians enjoyed the freedom to celebrate the 125th anniversary of their national Victory of Adwa. Adwa celebration was literally barred for almost three decades of TPLF hegemony. For most of the Ethiopian people who suffered under the TPLF crushing, brutal and corrupt governance for three decades, restoration of TPLF rule is unthinkable.
Western democracies must recognize that the Socialist dictatorship was not overthrown by the TPLF alone. It was overthrown by the Ethiopian people. The TPLF was also overthrown by the people of Ethiopia.
Finally “Does Ethiopia deserve good governance?” The answer is Yes. This too is determined by the people of Ethiopia and not by external powers. In this regard, Ethiopia will soon initiate a national election, that, I hope will be free and fair. At minimum, the electoral process to usher in democracy in Ethiopia must be given a chance.
I shall discuss the second major concern: the invasion of Ethiopia by the Sudan and its ramifications in commentary IV.
March 5, 2021.
The second huge concern I must highlight is the adverse implication for Ethiopia and the entire Africa of the precedent setting Egyptian-Sudanese defense pact.
- i) On November 6, 2020, barely two days after the TPLF initiated selective murders of non-Tigrean-Ethiopians affiliated with Ethiopia’s Northern Command that triggered the war, Sudan took advantage of the opportunity, carried-out an unprovoked invasion in the Gondar area of Ethiopia; annexed large tracts of fertile lands; and confiscated billions of Birr of private property.
- ii) According to Foreign Policy Magazine Sudan, no doubt supported by Egypt and other powers inimical to Ethiopia, encouraged the TPLF that had historically supported Sudanese wrongful claims that Ethiopian nationals had crossed the Sudanese border, took over Sudanese lands and violated Sudan’s sovereignty. This claim is untrue.
iii) Successive Ethiopian Governments including the current Government have never acknowledged Sudan’s unfounded claims that now encompasses “Al-Fashqa”, a land mass that is more than 100 square miles. As bizarre as it may seem, Sudan erroneously opines that it is also entitled to the entire Beni-Shangul Gumuz region. This land mass on the Blue Nile River is where the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is located. Ethiopia, the victim of Sudanese aggression has, on the other hand, opted for a diplomatic and peaceful resolution of the border issue that has been festering for more than 100 years.
- iv) For months, Egypt and Sudan conducted joint military exercises near Khartoum. In my assessment, Sudanese aggression against Ethiopia in violation of the UN Charter and its annexation of Ethiopian lands is causally linked to the diplomatic impasse in the tripartite negotiation concerning the GERD. Supported and encouraged by Egypt and other members of the Arab League, Sudan is implementing Egypt’s policy against Ethiopia before the second filling of the dam takes place in a few months.
- v) The Arab media wrongly claims that Sudan is the victim emanating from aggressive intrusions by Amhara Special Defense Forces, militia, bandits, and other Amhara units. Whether coincidental or not, the specific reference to Amhara Special Forces by Sudan is the same as the one uttered by Secretary of State Blinken. Both are mirror images of the TPLF narrative and its coordinated global defamation campaign against Ethiopia. To buttress and legitimize their hardline national position, Sudanese officials quoted former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn who had reinforced their unfounded Sudanese claims when he led Ethiopia. Hailemariam had the obligation to dismiss Sudanese propaganda by expressing a bold Ethiopian position that annexation of Ethiopian territory is not a regional or Amhara matter. It is a violation of Ethiopia’s sovereignty that affects all Ethiopians.
- vi) On March 2nd, 2021, Egypt and Sudan signed a defense co-operation pact. Why and which country is their target?
The gridlock on GERD negotiation is one of the most intractable diplomatic situations of the 21st century. Egypt and Sudan have reverted the matter to different bodies: the UN Security Council, the US Department of the Treasury and the World Bank and the African Union.
The Nile is the only transboundary river without an Agreement among 11 riparian nations. Egypt insists on a bilateral or trilateral agreement (Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan) that still gives Egypt the lion’s share of Nile Waters, 86 percent of which is supplied by Ethiopia. It insists on foreclosing Ethiopia’s sovereign rights to build more power and irrigation dams on the Blue Nile and major tributaries. It tries to impose its will on Ethiopia by insisting that it must have the right in the management and operation of the GERD. It also insists that Ethiopia must release waters to Egypt during drought and severe drought years, etc.
These are draconian policy measures that infringe on Ethiopia’s sovereign and legitimate rights to harness its river (s) for the benefit of its 116 million citizens. Ethiopia deserves to enjoy water security, energy security, food security as much as Egypt. More than 65 million Ethiopians lack access to electricity; 100 percent of Egyptians enjoy access to electricity. Further, the GERD does not reduce the volume of water to the Nile. The bottom line is equitable use of the Nile without causing significant harm to downstream nations. This principle is a corner stone of UN conventions, treaties and practices that govern all other transboundary rivers
Over the past several months, Egyptian and Sudanese Security and military chiefs have strengthened their intelligence and military preparations and agendas conducting joint war games. Their vitriols against Ethiopia are massive.
Egyptian military, intelligence and diplomatic leaders have been provocative and warmongering. This has bolstered Sudanese intrusions and incursions into Ethiopia. At the signing ceremony of the defense pact, Sudanese General Mohamed Othman Al-Hussein, Chief of staff said, “We thank our brothers from the Egyptian armed forces for their good intentions, generous assistance and their strong support to overcome the present difficulties.” It is abundantly clear that Egypt and Sudan are operating in concert.
His Egyptian counterpart, General Mohammed Farid Hegazy discussed at “length about military and security co-operation between the two countries, including intelligence gathering and of the overlap of their national security.” This means, Egypt and Sudan share identical security concerns with regard to the GERD and Sudan’s border with Ethiopia.
The Egyptian General also emphasized the following point that Ethiopians and the global community must recognize as a direct threat aimed at Ethiopia.
“The resources, strong will and resolve are there to implement what we have agreed on to counter any emergency situations. Egypt is ready to meet Sudan’s requests in all fields, including armament, joint training, technical support and securing joint borders.”
This is not just rhetoric. It is real. The defense pact between Egypt and Sudan signals an imminent danger for Ethiopia.
What the international community must do
- War must be avoided at all cost; the UN Security Council must hold an emergency session and bar any party from going to war
- The UN Security Council and the European Union must support the African Union Secretariat to arrive at a meaningful framework to resolve both the Ethiopia-Sudan border issue and the GERD deadlock
- Ethiopia and Sudan must agree on a specific time frame and implement the border demarcation
- For step 3 to occur, the UN Security Council and the AU must demand that Sudanese military forces withdraw from Ethiopia unconditionally and immediately; and that Egypt cease threatening Ethiopia and sponsoring proxy wars
- The UN Security Council and the EU must press Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan to restart the negotiation process under the auspices of the African Union under its current chairman, the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire) and, if necessary, provide a meaningful framework and technical assistance. Further, the African Union may wish to consider convening an all-inclusive conference of all riparian nations with the goal of arriving at a water sharing Agreement of the Nile that is lacking today.
- The UN Security Council and the EU must refrain from pressuring Ethiopia to sign an agreement that undermines Ethiopia’s sovereignty and forecloses its equitable use of its rivers for the betterment of its population.
Finally, I believe given the two sets of hurdles that I analyzed above, Ethiopia’s best option is to rely heavily on the national resolve and unity of purpose of its people. The Victory of Adwa teaches me that in times of national crisis, Ethiopians are resourceful and resilient.
Long Live Ethiopia and Long Live the Unity of the Ethiopian people.
March 4, 2021.