18.03.2024 Author: Viktor Goncharov

The Horn of Africa in the quagmire of geopolitical rivalry. Part Five: US-Ethiopia: The Collapse of the Double Standard Policy and Hypocrisy

US-Ethiopia: The Collapse of the Double Standard Policy and Hypocrisy

Ethiopia is a country that is one of the largest economies in Africa and the second largest in terms of population (1st Nigeria). Ethiopia has recently found itself at the centre of a geopolitical confrontation between the world’s leading powers, the US and China, and regional powers in the Horn of Africa. This confrontation is linked to the struggle for control of the strategic sea route from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean.

Over the past three decades, Ethiopia has been not only one of the closest US allies in Africa, but also the main recipient of American aid on the continent and a pillar of American security policy in the Horn of Africa in the fight against terrorism, particularly against Somalia’s Al-Shabaab (an organisation outlawed in Russia).

Trouble began to brew between the countries when the Trump administration sided with Egypt over the allocation of Blue Nile water resources in connection with the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

According to the New York Times, the conflict escalated in November 2020 when hostilities began in the Tigray region. Accusing Ethiopia of “gross violations of internationally recognised human rights” in the Tigray region, Washington suspended the country, along with Mali and Guinea, from the agreement that had given Ethiopian goods duty-free access to the US market, threatening 200,000 Ethiopians in the textile and garment industries and 700,000 workers in the catering, services and transport sectors, which, according to the newspaper, caused Addis Ababa to “throw a tantrum”.

According to research by the Canadian media group Global Research, before Abiy Ahmed came to power, Ethiopia had been ruled for 27 years by one of Africa’s most repressive regimes, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), led first by Meles Zenawi and then by Hailemariam Desalegn, staunch US allies against whom Washington imposed no sanctions.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, while achieving “brilliant results” in the elections, widely used intimidation and direct arrests against his political opponents. As The New York Times recognises, he himself “wrote the country’s laws and administered justice himself”. He was so much in demand by the American administration for its policies in Africa that, while receiving more than $800 million in aid annually, mostly for the purchase of American military equipment, he jammed the signal of the Voice of America radio station because he did not like its broadcasts. This was despite the fact that American human rights organisations were constantly demanding that aid to this repressive regime be cut.

Today, in promoting its interests in Ethiopia, the US is actively using the Ethiopian opposition diaspora, the number of which, according to various sources, ranges from 250,000 to 500,000 people. Apart from using social networks to promote its ideology, it essentially serves as a cover channel for Washington to sponsor opposition organisations close to it inside the country.

In this regard, the statement by the head of the American Amhara Association, a lobby group supporting the anti-government FANO militia, that “it, with the support of the farmers and the entire Amhara people, will attempt to defeat the federal security forces and their alliance, and ultimately remove Abiy Ahmed from power” is noteworthy.

It may seem strange that this interpretation of the ultimate goal of the rebel organisation comes from expatriate circles based in the US. But it seems so only at first glance. In fact, this is fully in line with Washington’s foreign policy objectives in this part of the world, which are to make Ethiopia unattractive to Chinese investment by creating controlled, permanent chaos in the country, using to this end the numerous separatist organisations and the traditionally complex relations between the three largest ethnic groups-Oromo, Amhara and Tigray.

The Irish Times claims that under the guise of American democracy, numerous Ethiopian organisations based in the US are developing plans to destabilise their country. But it is the Amhara, Oromo and Tigray Ethiopian associations that have the greatest influence on the development of specific US measures against Ethiopia.

By encouraging and funding their activities, Washington is trying to destabilise the situation in Ethiopia with their help. During the civil war in the Tigray region in November 2021, the United States announced the creation of the “United Front of Ethiopian Federalist and Confederalist Forces” based on the “Tigray People’s Liberation Front” operating in the northern parts of the country.

According to Annette Weber, the European Union’s representative in the Horn of Africa, weapons were supplied to TPLF fighters from Sudanese territory. It is no coincidence that, according to a New York Times article entitled “After Secret U.S. Talks Fail, a Hidden War in Africa Rapidly Escalates”, U.S. President Joe Biden, in his first phone call to Abiy Ahmed in January 2022, did his best to allay the Ethiopian leader’s fears that Washington was plotting to overthrow him.

There are serious reasons for such concerns. At the end of 2021, circles within the US political-military establishment were talking about the need to send a contingent of peacekeepers to Ethiopia. In an article in the Canadian publication Global Research, under the remarkable title “The US Is Preparing to Conduct a Military Intervention in Ethiopia under the Libyan Scenario”, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Admiral James Stavridis, while noting the unpopularity of such an approach, stated that it might be the only way to stop the civil war in Tigray.

At the same time, former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer proposed a no-fly zone over Ethiopia, a country of 120 million people with an area twice the size of France. The State Department also considered the Libyan option, according to Samantha Power, head of the US Agency for International Development, who, along with current State Department head Antony Blinken, helped draw up plans to defeat Gaddafi in Libya.

The anti-government demonstrations taking place in Ethiopia today, with direct US support, are being presented by Washington as the natural result of the struggle for power between numerous ethnic clans, the number of which in this multi-ethnic country is in fact many dozens.

In addition, the Western media, especially the US, has launched a veritable information war against Ethiopia. During the war in the Tigray region, the Ethiopian government issued an official warning that news agencies such as the Associated Press, BBC, CNN, Reuters and France 24 were not providing “impartial” coverage of the events.

In particular, they were accused of spreading false rumours that TPLF forces were already close to the capital Addis Ababa and conducting offensive operations, and of urging their Western compatriots to leave as soon as possible because the Ethiopian armed forces were demoralised and unable to fight back. The US-based CNN was the most active in this effort. All these efforts by the Western media were aimed at spreading fear and panic in the country and destabilising the situation in order to overthrow the ruling regime.

Or take the problem of the desperately needy population of the Tigray region to receive international humanitarian aid, which is allegedly deliberately delayed by local officials with the connivance of the central government. But according to a Reuters report, citing the head of the USAID mission in Ethiopia, TPLF militants were found to have looted food stores belonging to the U.S. government.

Moreover, in violation of all international and criminal law, representatives of some UN humanitarian agencies have been caught red-handed in Ethiopia, according to the US publication Abren, using these agencies as conduits for smuggling military communications equipment and weapons to TPLF fighters, leading to tensions and disruptions in relations between the authorities and UN humanitarian agencies.

The current assessment of the prospects for further developments in and around Ethiopia should take into account that the country is heavily indebted to China ($13.7 billion out of a total of $30 billion) and even more to Western investors, and is in dire need of loans from the IMF and the World Bank. The US, which plays a leading role in these organisations, therefore still has considerable influence over Addis Ababa’s policies.


Viktor GONCHAROV, african expert, candidate of sciences in economics, especially for online magazine “New Eastern Outlook

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