Lawrence Freeman, November 9, 2021
President Biden and his administration have launched a new round of economic and political warfare against the people of Ethiopia, on the one year anniversary of the conflict initiated by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Biden Uses Trade as A Weapon Against Ethiopia
On November 2, President Biden threatened, “I intend to terminate the designation of Ethiopia, Guinea, and Mali as beneficiary sub-Saharan African [SSA]countries under AGOA as of January 1, 2022.” AGOA-the African Growth and Opportunity Act established over twenty years ago, is designed to allow SSA nations easier access to American markets, in an effort to promote economic growth. Conservative estimates are that 200,000 workers in Ethiopia, mostly women, directly benefit from AGOA provisions plus another 800,000 employed indirectly. Thus, Biden would be pushing one million Ethiopians into poverty. In addition to the already existing sanctions, it is despicable that a sitting American President would stoop to the level of using trade agreements to impoverish an African nation. To punish the people (predominantly women) of a developing nation, an ally, by deepening their impoverishment is virtually unheard of in American foreign policy. Yet the “liberal Democratic” Biden administration intends to impose these hardships within two months, if the duly elected Prime Minister of Ethiopia , Abiy Ahmed, does not bow to the demands of the U.S.
Let us be clear. President Biden’s economic/trade warfare will only impact the government and people of Ethiopia, it will have no effect on the warring rebels. In effect, the revoking of AGOA, existing U.S. sanctions, and threatening additional sanctions only encourages the insurrectionists to continue waging war in anticipation that it will weaken the government of Prime Minister Abiy. Cui bono? In other words, who benefits from U.S. anti-Ethiopian measures.
On the same day, November 2, U.S. Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa, Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman, amplified President Biden’s threat in his speech in Washington DC. In his speech, Feltman only refers to “the growing crisis in Ethiopia’s northern state of Tigray,” conspicuously omitting that the conflict erupted after TPLF militarily attacked the Federal government’s army base in Mekele, Tigray. He laments the famine-like conditions in Tigray, and criticizes the use of food as a weapon, but then proceeds to endorse the U.S. use of AGOA as a weapon. He concludes that Ethiopia has only “days, not weeks” to obey the instructions from Washington. Only in parentheses does Feltman meekly comment that the U.S. also “insists TPLF stop its military advance.” However, no punishment or threats have been issued by the U.S. against the insurrectionists commensurate with those leveled against the government of Prime Minister Abiy .
Feltman, like the rest of the Biden administration, exposes his disingenuousness, when he says, “We do not want Ethiopia to lose its AGOA trade benefits or international economic assistance,” but President Biden announced that is exactly what he intends. If Ethiopia yields to U.S. intimidation, the alleged concerns about Ethiopia violating AGOA “statutory eligibility” will magically disappear, making clear that the revocation of AGOA is being used as a bludgeon to force Ethiopia to submit.
Regime Change on the Agenda?
Foreign Affairs magazine published on November 5, an article with the inflammatory title: Can Ethiopia Survive? It should be understood that this is the magazine of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the premiere think-tank of the Anglo American Establishment. Every U.S. President has been advised by the CFR, and often accept personnel they recommend for cabinet positions. Only select articles are published by the CFR, and this one has qualified in part because it articulates possible scenarios for Ethiopia’s future that include regime change.
The authors, in typical patronizing language, question Ethiopia’s existence as a sovereign nation, and assert that if Ethiopia is to survive, it will have to produce “a reason for its existence.” They also falsely claim that Ethiopia’s national elections were “neither free nor fair,” contrary to all official observers.
The article continues, proposing four possible outcomes of the current conflict, all of which will weaken the Ethiopian nation-state and endanger the Horn of Africa.
First, a victory over the Ethiopian army, (which they allege is collapsing) by the TPLF and Oromo Liberation Army. Secondly, a negotiated settlement, which would not endure. Thirdly, a prolonged military stalemate between the government of Ethiopia and the two rebel forces.
Fourthly, under the subhead: Abiy could join the growing list of recently deposed African leaders, the authors speculate that “Abiy [would be] removed from his position, likely by his own military officers.”
Suggesting a palace coup of the elected Prime Minister of the second largest nation in Africa, with over 110 million people, the only SSA nation never colonized, is extremely dangerous and should be frightening to all Africans.
The authors propose a transitional government, which again includes the removal of Prime Minister Abiy. It also calls for greater ethnic autonomy, a hardening of ethnic identities, rather than forging a unified Ethiopian identity. They write:
“The only solution is to pursue a negotiated settlement that secures at least some buy-in from the leaders of the TPLF and the OLA…At a minimum, its leaders would hope to press their current military advantage and demand reinstatement as the regional government, greater autonomy for the region…If the TPLF ends up joining forces with the OLF…their demands are also likely to include the removal of Abiy himself and the formation of a transitional government.” (Emphasis added)
I have warned since the outbreak of this conflict about the intent of regime change, which devotees of geo-politically diseased thinking, believe will eliminate the resistance to their designs on the region.
We are now entering the second decade since the same cast of characters currently advising President Biden, previously in the Obama administration, implemented regime change in Libya, assassinating President Kaddafi. Hundreds of thousands of Africans, if not millions, living in the Sahel have suffered as a result of this geo-political adventurism. Obama said he was sorry, and it was a mistake. That is not an acceptable excuse.
We cannot let President Biden follow in the deadly footsteps of his predecessor. Let our voices resonate throughout the U.S., Africa, and around the world: no regime change in Ethiopia!
Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com. Mr. Freeman’s stated personal mission is; to eliminate poverty and hunger in Africa by applying the scientific economic principles of Alexander Hamilton.