Konflikten i Etiopien – del 4: USA drar åt straffåtgärdernas snara

Del 4 i Ronie Berggrens serie om konflikten i Etiopien. I denna del förklaras hur USA under Biden-administrationens befäl, utifrån sina förenklade resonemang om mänskliga rättigheter, drog åt snaran av straffåtgärder mot Etiopien.

Läs också:

Konflikten i Etiopien – del 1: En demokrati föds och tvingas kämpa för överlevnad

Konflikten i Etiopien – del 2: Etiopien vinner kriget genom att inte låta sig dikteras

Konflikten i Etiopien – del 3: Vad som triggade västs U-sväng om Abiys regering

Konflikten i Etiopien – del 5: #NoMore – kampen mot västvärldens ensidiga medianarrativ

Abiy Ahmeds regering valde att gå sin egen väg i förhållande till inbördeskonflikten i sitt eget land. Detta triggade västvärldens, och framförallt USA:s ilska, som straffade genom hård kritik och direkta sanktioner. I denna fjärde del av min serie om Etiopien beskriver jag hur ordväxlingen gestaltade sig och vilka konsekvenser detta fick.

Ordväxlingen mellan USA och Etiopien

Den etiopiska konflikten hade brutit ut den 3 november 2020. Samma dag som USA höll presidentval. Republikanernas president Donald Trump förlorade makten till Demokraternas kandidat Joe Biden, som tillträdde den 20 januari 2021, cirka tre månader efter att konflikten i Etiopien brutit ut. 

Bytet av amerikansk presidentadministration innebar förändringar i synen på Etiopien. Donald Trump hade inte heller han varit Etiopiens bästa vän. USA hade förstås gratulerat Abiy Ahmed när han fick Nobelpriset, men Trump hade inte haft nämnvärt mycket koll på situationen i landet, något jag kommer att ge exempel på lite längre fram. När konflikten bröt ut den 3 november 2020 var- och skulle Trump personligen fokusera helt på sina egna påståenden om att Demokraterna hade fuskat i valet, och inte intressera sig alls för utrikespolitik. 

Men många av Trumps kabinettsmedlemmar hade haft en sund syn på konflikten. Redan den 4 november 2020 hade Trumps utrikesminister Mike Pompeo gett den etiopiska regeringen sitt stöd. The Hill skriver:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is putting the support of the U.S. behind the central Ethiopian government amid escalating conflict in the region and threats of an outbreak of civil war, calling for a deescalation of tensions and the restoration of peace.

In a statement on Wednesday evening, Pompeo said the U.S. is “deeply concerned” over reports that the Ethiopian military was attacked by regional forces of the Tigray government stationed in that territory, in the north of the country on the border with Eritrea.

I artikel 2 citerades Trumps Afrikasändebud Tibor Nag, som den 22 november 2020 sa att det inte handlade om Tigray-regionens frihetskamp utan om ett försök av TPLF att störta Abiy Ahmeds regering och den demokrati som drivit bort TPLF från den makt de så länge hade tagit för given.

Biden-administrationen riktar skarpare kritik mot Abiy Ahmeds regering

Med Bidens och Demokraternas övertagande av den amerikanska regeringsmakten den 20 januari 2021 fick tidigare omnämnda personer som Susan Rice och Gayle Smith större inflytande och tonen skärptes mot den etiopiska regeringen, främst med mänskliga rättigheter som argument, vilket beskrevs i artikel 3.

Den 27 februari 2021, efter bara en dryg månad vid makten, släppte Bidens utrikesminister Anthony Blinken ett meddelande från amerikanska UD med tydlig kritik mot den etiopiska regeringen:

The United States is gravely concerned by reported atrocities and the overall deteriorating situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. … The United States has repeatedly engaged the Ethiopian government on the importance of ending the violence, ensuring unhindered humanitarian access to Tigray, and allowing a full, independent, international investigation into all reports of human rights violations, abuses, and atrocities.  … The immediate withdrawal of Eritrean forces and Amhara regional forces from Tigray are essential first steps.  They should be accompanied by unilateral declarations of cessation of hostilities by all parties to the conflict and a commitment to permit unhindered delivery of assistance to those in Tigray.

Etiopiens utrikesdepartement svarar

Bekymren för brott mot mänskliga rättigheter var inte ogrundade, övergrepp begicks. Men vad USA missade var att ta konfliktens helhet i akt och att Etiopien själva inte var emot mänskliga rättigheter, men ansåg sig också behöva kunna hantera konflikten. Dagen efter släppte Etiopiens utrikesdepartement (The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, MoFA)  sitt eget svar på USA:s krav:

The Government of Ethiopia’s prevailing focus and priority has been and still is to effectively respond to the humanitarian situation in the Tigray region. In doing so, it continues to collaborate and coordinate its actions with international partners to reach out to every person in need.

It should be noted that the Ethiopian government thus far is covering 70% of the assistance from its resources, while the remaining 30% is shared by development partners and NGOs. So far, the ongoing relief efforts have reached out to more than three million people. Priority is being given to people in vulnerable situations, particularly for women and children.

… the Ethiopian government has made its position unequivocally clear concerning human rights abuses and crimes allegedly committed in the Tigray region. The government of Ethiopia takes its responsibility for the safety, security, and well-being of all Ethiopian citizens very seriously. That is why it is fully committed to undertake thorough investigations to get to the bottom of the issue and bring perpetrators to justice. In this connection, the government not only welcomed the support of international human rights experts but also signaled the possibility of collaboration on joint investigations with the relevant human rights bodies.

Therefore, the government has shown its determination to engage positively and constructively by responding to the two major requests of the international community, i.e., unfettered access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and independent investigation into the alleged human rights violations and crimes committed in the Tigray region. These are also the main issues raised by the US Secretary of State Mr. Antony J. Blinken in his press statement issued on 27 February 2021.

Det var ett uttalande med vilja att samarbeta och att de stod på samma sida som USA i önskan att förhindra nöd och straffa övergrepp. Men Etiopiens utrikesdepartement invände däremot när det kom till politiken. Den skulle styras av Etiopien, inte av andra aktörer:

However, an attempt by the US to make pronouncements on Ethiopia’s internal affairs and specifically, the reference to the Amhara regional forces redeployment in the above-mentioned press statement is regrettable. It should be clear that such matters are the sole responsibility of the Ethiopian government, which as a sovereign nation, is responsible to deploy the necessary security structures and means available in ensuring the rule of law within all corners of its borders.

The Ethiopian government, like any government of a sovereign nation, has in place various organizing principles in its Federal and Regional structures which are solely accountable only to the Ethiopian people. The Federal Government is mandated by the Constitution to ensure peace and security against any threats to the Constitutional order of the country. It is in the spirit of this responsibility and holding a nation together from treasonous and divisive forces that the Federal government has been undertaking the rule of law operations in Tigray.

Ethiopia has an unwavering commitment to honoring its international responsibilities, despite the destabilizing nature of the challenges that ensued due to the high treason of a criminal clique. Nevertheless, honoring international obligations and responsibilities should not be deemed by any entity as an invitation to dictate a sovereign nation’s internal affairs.

Anthony Blinken ringer Abiy Ahmed

Den 2 mars 2021 ringde Anthony Blinken till Abiy Ahmed och hamrade in sin poäng tydligare. Reuters beskrev därpå samtalet:

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Tuesday pressed Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to end hostilities in the northern Tigray region, citing a “growing number of credible reports of atrocities and human rights violations and abuses.”

In a statement, State Department spokesman Ned Price said Blinken pressed Abiy in a phone call to withdraw outside forces from Tigray, including troops from Ethiopia’s Amhara region and from Eritrea, and for an immediate end to violence.

… “The secretary urged the Ethiopian government to take immediate, concrete steps to protect civilians, including refugees, and to prevent further violence,” Price said in the statement.

Speaking to reporters, Price said: “We strongly condemn the killings, the forced removals and displacement, the sexual assaults, and other human rights violations and abuses by several parties that multiple organizations, have, now reported.”

Reuters skriver också om den etiopiska regeringens svar där man hänvisade till det ovan citerade uttalande från etiopiska UD:

… Abiy’s spokeswoman, Billene Seyoum, referred Reuters to a Feb. 28 statement in which Ethiopia’s ministry of foreign affairs called U.S. attempts to intervene in its internal affairs “regrettable”.

G7 släpper uttalande

I april 2021 tog även G7-länderna upp frågan och släppte ett meddelande: 

We, the G7 Foreign Ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America and the High Representative of the European Union are strongly concerned about recent reports on human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law in Tigray.

We condemn the killing of civilians, sexual and gender-based violence, indiscriminate shelling and the forced displacement of residents of Tigray and Eritrean refugees. All parties must exercise utmost restraint, ensure the protection of civilians and respect human rights and international law.

… We call for the end of violence and the establishment of a clear inclusive political process that is acceptable to all Ethiopians, including those in Tigray and which leads to credible elections and a wider national reconciliation process.

Det här var ett utlåtande som med laserfokus på mänskligt lidande helt ignorerade vilken part som var ansvarig för den humanitära krisen, och ignorerade att en ”inclusive political process” skulle innebära att det forna diktaturpartiet återigen blev relevant. Utifrån en läsning av texten framstår att G7 verkar tro att det handlar om en konflikt mellan Tigrays minoritetsbefolkning och den etiopiska centralregeringen. Medan den faktiska situationen är att det handlar om en konflikt mellan etiopiska befolkningen (bestående av mängder av mycket mindre minoriteter än tigrayanerna) och TPLF – ett diktaturparti av tigrayaner som använder sin egen befolkning i ett försök att få tillbaka den makt de förlorade med demokratins genombrott.

USA utfärdar sanktioner

I maj 2021 började det ryktas om att USA skulle införa sanktioner mot Etiopien med det humanitära lidandet som legitimerande argument. Den 22 maj skrev Bloomberg:

The Biden administration has prepared economic sanctions against Ethiopia that could halt financing from the U.S. and loans by international financial institutions, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The action, if confirmed, would set back relations between two longtime allies in the fight against Islamist extremism in the Horn of Africa. They’d add pressure to Ethiopia’s state finances as the government works to offset the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and conflict in its northern Tigray region, which are forcing Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to restructure the nation’s debt.

Den 23 maj pålyste USA:s utrikesminister Anthony Blinken sanktionerna. New York Times skrev dagen därpå:

The restrictions, announced by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Sunday, amount to an unusual step against a key African ally, and a pointed rebuke to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a Nobel Peace Prize winner whose troops and allies have been accused of ethnic cleansing, massacres and others atrocities that could amount to war crimes.

Despite “significant diplomatic engagement,” Mr. Blinken said in a statement, “the parties to the conflict in Tigray have taken no meaningful steps to end hostilities or pursue a peaceful resolution of the political crisis.”

American visa restrictions will apply to all actors in the Tigray conflict, Mr. Blinken said, including current and former Ethiopian and Eritrean officials, ethnic Amhara militias and Tigrayan rebels. 

But there was little doubt that the main target of the measures was Ethiopia, the largest recipient of American aid in sub-Saharan Africa and a country long considered a key regional ally and a bulwark against Islamist militancy.

… The American measures against Ethiopia, the harshest in several decades, aim to rally wider international pressure to force a halt to fighting in Tigray, which has been accompanied by widespread atrocities.

Etiopiens UD svarade att USA:s agerande var mycket beklagligt: 

Ethiopia attaches great importance to its historic and friendly relationship with the United States which has stood the test of time. That is why the government finds it extremely regrettable that the implications of the visa restrictions and other related measures taken earlier will seriously undermine this longstanding and important bilateral relationship.

What is even more saddening is the tendency by the U.S. administration to treat the Ethiopian Government on an equal footing with the TPLF, which was designated as a terrorist organization by the House of Peoples’ Representative two weeks ago. There is nothing more revealing than this to understand the misguided approach by the administration.

The Ethiopian government has been consciously working to promote national dialogue through a series of engagements with wider sections of the Ethiopian society not because it was pushed from outside, but because it believes that this is the right thing to do to build the necessary national consensus in the country and chart out a better way forward. But it should be understood that the government cannot be compelled to sit down and negotiate with the TPLF, which has already been labeled as a terrorist organization, and any sort of attempt to resuscitate the terrorist group would be counterproductive and untenable.

As the Ethiopian Government has made it clear, time and again, the attempt by the U.S. administration to meddle in its internal affairs, is not only inappropriate but also completely unacceptable. Ethiopia should not be told how to run and manage its internal affairs.

As far as alleged human rights abuses committed in the Tigray region are concerned, the Ethiopian government is fulfilling its commitment to hold those responsible accountable. The Federal Attorney General’s Office has announced the outcome of its investigative work and the important steps taken towards ensuring accountability and justice. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) have already embarked on their joint independent investigation. Upon the invitation of the Ethiopian government, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) is also undertaking its investigations. 

Furthermore, the Ethiopian government has not only demonstrated its willingness and commitment to work with the international community to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Tigray, but it has also provided full and unhindered access for humanitarian actors to operate in all parts of the region. It’s been doing all it can by mustering its meager resources and that of partners to reach out to all people in dire need of urgent assistance. The humanitarian actors operating on the ground know full well that the challenge at hand is related to issues of capacity and additional resources and not so much about access.

Abiy Ahmed svarar med ett öppet brev till Joe Biden

Dessa ordväxlingar fortsatte under året. I september 2021, när TPLF:s börjat sin comeback, svarade Abiy Ahmed med ett öppet brev riktat till Joe Biden. Där skrev Ahmed så här: 

Dear Mr. President,

As I write this open letter to you, it comes at a time when innocent civilians including women, children and other vulnerable groups in the Afar and Amhara regions have been violently displaced, their livelihoods disrupted, their family members killed, and their properties as well as service giving institutions destroyed intentionally by TPLF.

This letter comes at a time when our children in the Tigray region are being used as cannon fodder by remnants of an organization recently designated as ‘terrorist’ by our House of People’s Representatives. Children of a post-war generation that have held high hopes in the possibility that their lives would be distinctly different from that of their parents, whose lives have been marred by the terror of war with the DERG regime and a cross border conflict with Eritrea in the late 1990s instigated by the TPLF.

As the rest of their peers in the country pursue their studies and lives, our children of Tigray have been held hostage by a terrorist organization that attacked the State on November 3, 2020 exposing them to various vulnerabilities. While the use of children as soldiers and participation in active combat is a violation of international law, the terrorist organization TPLF has proceeded unabated in waging its aggression through the use of children and other civilians. The cries of women and children in the Amhara and Afar regions that are displaced and suffering at the hands of TPLF’s enduring ruthlessness continues under the deafening silence of the international community.

Unfortunately, while the entire world has turned its eyes onto Ethiopia and the Government for all the wrong reasons, it has failed to openly and sternly reprimand the terrorist group in the same manner it has been chastising my Government. The many efforts the Ethiopian Government has undertaken to stabilize the region and address humanitarian needs amidst a hostile environment created by the TPLF have been continuously misrepresented. The mounting and undue pressure on a developing African country, with limitless potential for prosperity, has been building up over the past months. This unwarranted pressure, characterized by double standards, has been rooted in an orchestrated distortion of events and facts on the ground as it pertains to Ethiopia’s rule of law operations in the Tigray region. As a long-time friend, strategic ally and partner in security, the United States’ recent policy against my country comes not only as a surprise to our proud nation, but evidently surpasses humanitarian concerns.

For almost three decades, Ethiopians in all corners have been subjected to pervasive human rights, civil and political rights violations under TPLF’s regime. Various identities under the Ethiopian flag were exploited by a small clique that appropriated power to benefit its small circle at the expense of millions, including the impoverished of the Tigray region. The suppression of political dissent, egregious human rights violations, displacements, suffocation of democratic rights and capture of State machinery and institutions for the aggrandizement of a small group that ran a country of millions with no accountability for 27 years has been met with little to no resistance by various Western nations, including the US.

The period 2015-2018 that marked Ethiopia’s awakening where the TPLF was deposed from power in a popular uprising, is telling of the stance that millions throughout this great country took against a criminal enterprise that subjugated Ethiopians to oppression and stripped citizens of agency. TPLF’s track record of pitting one ethnic group against the other for its own political survival did not end in 2018 when my administration took over the helms of power. It rather mutated and intensified in form, putting on the robe of victimhood, while financing elements of instability throughout the country.

Now, the destructive criminal clique, adept at propaganda and spinning international human rights and democracy machinations to its favor, cries wolf while it leaves no stone unturned in its mission to destroy a nation of more than a 3000-year history. Although this hallucination will not come to pass, history will record that the orchestrated turbulent period Ethiopia is going through at the moment is being justified by some Western policy makers and global institutions under the guise of humanitarian assistance and advancing democracy.

In a demonstration of my people’s aspiration to democratize and unprecedented in Ethiopia’s modern history, close to 40million of my country folk went out to vote on June 21, 2021 in this country’s first attempt at a free and fair election. In spite of the many challenges and shortcomings the 6th National Election may have been faced with, the resolute determination of the Ethiopian people for the democratic process was displayed in their commitment to a peaceful electoral period. Against the backdrop of previous electoral periods in which the choice of the people was snatched through rigged processes by the former regime, the 2021 elections came on the heels of the democratic reforms processes we embarked upon three years ago. The significance of our 2021 elections is in its peaceful conclusion, demonstrating Ethiopia’s new trajectory amidst the global warnings that the elections would be violent.

With the Ethiopian people having spoken and affirmed their faith in Prosperity Party to lead them through the next five years in a landslide victory, my Party and administration with this responsibility at hand, are ever more determined to unleash the potential for equitable development these lands are blessed with. We are even more resolute in granting our people the dignity, security and development they deserve within the means we have and without succumbing to various competing interests and pressures. And we will do this by confronting the threats to democracy and stability posed by any belligerent criminal enterprise.

While threats to national, regional and global security continue to be a key component of US interests in many parts of the world, it remains unanswered why your administration has not taken a strong position against the TPLF – the very organization the US Homeland Security categorized as qualifying as Tier 3 terrorist organization for their violent activities in the 1980s.

In the same manner that your predecessors led the global ‘war on terror’, my administration supported by the millions of Ethiopians thirsty and hungry for their right to peace, development and prosperity, are also leading our national ‘war on terror’ against a destructive criminal enterprise, which poses a threat to both national and Horn region stability. Ethiopia has remained the US’s staunch ally in fighting the terrorism threat of Al Shabab in the Horn. It is our expectation that the US would stand by Ethiopia as a similar terrorist organization with hostility towards the region threatens to destabilize the Horn.

Mr. President,

The American people that have supported the US government’s global interventions under the pretext of democratization would be hard-pressed to know that a small impoverished but culturally, historically and naturally rich nation in East Africa embarked on its own democratization path three years ago. However, the American people and the rest of the Western world are being misguided by the reports, narratives and data distortions of global entities many believe were driven to help impoverished countries like mine, yet have in the past months portrayed victims as oppressors and oppressors as victims through partisan narratives and bankrolled networks. History always smiles upon those who have stood for truth. And so, I am certain that truth will shine upon this proud nation Ethiopia!

Many Ethiopians and Africans looked with optimism at your ascent to the Presidency earlier this year. This optimism has been rooted in the belief that a new dispensation for Africa – US relations will materialize in 2021, and that your Presidency would usher in respect for the sovereignty of African nations and nurture partnerships based on mutual growth and in depth reading of context.

African nations that have broken free from the shackles of colonialism starting from the 1950s have continued to resist the chains of neocolonialism that is manifesting itself in various overt and covert ways. Despite escaping the yokes of colonialism, Ethiopia now struggles with its mutation. As a founding member of the United Nations and the Organization for African Unity (now African Union), Ethiopia remains a proud nation that through its sons, daughters and kinship with other African nations, is determined to meet our current challenges with the resilient and indomitable spirit that defines this great nation.

Developing nations, like Ethiopia, have been expectant that a new course in the US’s foreign policy will be charted, departing from the influence of individuals that have entrenched themselves into the politics of other nations. A foreign policy that can extricate itself from decisions made based on key policymakers and policy influencer’s friendships with belligerent terrorist groups like the TPLF and the narrative distortions of lobby groups. We have seen the consequences and aftermaths of hurried and rash decisions made by various US administrations that have left many global populations in more desolate conditions than the intervention attempted to rectify.

It is essential to point out here that Ethiopia will not succumb to consequences of pressure engineered by disgruntled individuals for whom consolidating power is more important than the well-being of millions. Our identity as Ethiopians and our identity as Africans will not let this come to pass. The humiliation our ancestors have faced throughout the continent for centuries will not be resuscitated in these lands upon which the green, gold and red colors of independence have inspired many to successfully struggle for their freedom!

God bless Ethiopia and its people!

September 17, 2021

Biden svarar med sanktioner 

Biden svarade inte på Abiy Ahmeds öppna brev, som knappt noterades i västerländsk media. Samma dag lät Biden däremot skriva en exekutiv order om nya sanktioner mot Etiopien och mot Eritrea för övergreppen i Etiopien. En konflikt där det var TPLF som stod för de stora övergreppen, men där USA menade att det grundläggande var den etiopiska regeringens ansvar. Biden beskrev också situationen som en hot mot USA:s nationella säkerhet:

I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, find that the situation in and in relation to northern Ethiopia, which has been marked by activities that threaten the peace, security, and stability of Ethiopia and the greater Horn of Africa region — in particular, widespread violence, atrocities, and serious human rights abuse, including those involving ethnic-based violence, rape and other forms of gender-based violence, and obstruction of humanitarian operations — constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.  I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.

På vilket sätt situationen i Etiopien var ett säkerhetshot mot USA framkom inte. Den etiopiska regeringen var demokratisk, det etiopiska folket förvisso arga på amerikansk media, vilket inte var helt obefogat. Men de var inga terrorister och givetvis inget hot mot USA:s nationella säkerhet. Inte ens sammanhangets riktiga terrorister, TPLF – var några USA-fientliga terrorister som exempelvis Al Qaida, utan tvärtom, en USA-allierad. En allierad som förvisso förtryckt sin egen befolkning men alltid varit vänner med USA. 

Den årslånga ordväxlingen mellan USA och Etiopien tycktes dock inte leda någon vart. USA drog svepande penseldrag och ansåg att alla parter borde visa att de klarade av att respektera mänskliga rättigheter genom att sluta strida och börja förhandla.

TPLF hade vid den här punkten sagt nej till den vapenvila som den etiopiska regeringen hade erbjudit under sommaren. Abiy Ahmed ansåg å sin sida att Etiopien inte kunde förhandla med en terroriströrelse som använde barnsoldater och ville störta den unga etiopiska demokratin. Något större utrymme för att hörsamma USA:s krav fanns inte.

USA försöker stoppa Etiopiens tillgång till drönare

USA skulle fortsätta dra åt snaran på Etiopien. Den processen hade börjat redan i januari 2021.

Drönarna var som tidigare beskrivits, essentiella för Abiy Ahmeds seger mot TPLF. Dessa kunde den etiopiska regeringen komma över genom förbindelser med länder som Iran och Turkiet, där USA inte hade något som helst att säga till om. I de fall där USA kunde sätta stopp, gjordes dock det. En av Biden-administrationens första åtgärder var att stoppa Förenade Arabemiratens drönarleveranser till Etiopien. New York Times skriver om den saken:

Mr. Abiy built his drone arsenal by tapping the sympathy of foreign autocrats and a booming segment of the global arms trade. … Nearly every day, cargo flights arrived from a military base in the United Arab Emirates, one of Mr. Abiy’s closest allies.

The Emiratis had trained Mr. Abiy’s Republican Guard and provided crucial military support at the start of the war, running drone strikes that took out Tigrayan artillery and weapons depots, a Western official and a former Ethiopian official said. The Emirati strikes stopped in January after President Biden came to power, under pressure from Washington. 

Senare under hösten skulle Förenade Arabemiraten ändå kunna leverera drönare via Kina, men poängen är att USA ville förhindra Etiopien från att få tillgång till drönare. Det var så snaran började dras åt vid årets början. Vid årets slut följde den hårdaste åtgärden.

USA stänger Etiopien ute från The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)

I början av november 2021, efter att Abiy Ahmed pålyst sitt sex månaders undantagstillstånd för att göra nationen redo inför TPLF:s framfart, pålyste USA sin hårdaste åtgärd. Etiopien skulle stängas ute ur The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) är ett handelssamarbete skapat år 2000 av USA:s kongress, på initiativ av den demokratiske kongressmannen Jim McDermott, i syfte att att bistå de tropiska Afrikas ekonomier genom att ge dessa avgiftsfria exportmöjligheter till USA på enklare produktioner som textilier och liknande. För att få delta måste länderna sträva efter marknadsekonomi, drägliga förhållanden för sina arbetare och respektera mänskliga rättigheter. 

Det var den sista punkten Bidenadministrationen ansåg att Etiopien inte längre gjorde. Inte i förhållande till arbetarna, men i förhållande till konflikten med TPLF. Den 2 november 2021 skrev CNN under rubriken: ”Ethiopia on verge of losing access to lucrative US trade program over human rights violations”:

Ethiopia will lose access to a lucrative US trade program due to human rights violations unless it takes significant steps toward ending the ongoing conflict and alleviating the humanitarian crisis by the start of 2022, senior administration officials said Tuesday.

President Joe Biden has determined that Ethiopia is out of compliance with the eligibility requirements of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) ”for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights,” he said in a message to Congress Tuesday.

USA:s Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman sade också:

”as the war approaches its one-year anniversary, the United States and others cannot continue ’business as usual’ relations with the government of Ethiopia.”

Etiopiens utrikesdepartement uttryckte sin besvikelse och svarade på samma sätt som de gjort under hela året. Att de var besvikna på USA, men skulle göra allt för att värna mänskliga rättigheter, men att det inte kunde innebära att de kapitulerade inför TPLF. CNN refererar till Etiopiens kommentar: 

”These actions will reverse significant economic gains in our country and unfairly impact and harm women and children,” the statement said.

”Ethiopia will continue to make every effort to correct any unintended or perceived wrongs,” the ministry said, adding, ”This decision must be reversed by January 1, 2022 and we urge the United States to support our ongoing efforts to restore peace and the rule of law — not punish our people for confronting an insurgent force that is attempting to bring down our democratically elected government.”

”The Ethiopian government takes all human rights allegations seriously: we are looking at them and conducting investigations and we are committed to ensuring accountability,”

För er som har kronologin i åtanke, så pålyste Biden-administrationen detta, inte när de etiopiska styrkorna var inne i Tigray utan tvärtom, när TPLF avancerade, mördade och våldtog människor i Amhara, och USA själva började bli rädda för att självaste Addis Ababa skulle falla i TPLF:s händer. Det var också TPLF:s snabba avancemang som hade fått Etiopien att genomdriva den undantagslag som USA anförde som ett skäl för att hota med att utestänga Etiopien från Agoa. 

Åtgärden sattes således in i ett för den etiopiska regeringen mycket ansträngt läge. Men regeringen kunde omöjligt ändra sig i fråga om kriget. En tid senare gav sig Abiy Ahmed personligen ut till fronten och USA meddelade att beslutet skulle verkställas. 

Att konsekvensen skulle komma att drabba vanliga etiopiska arbetare, tycktes inte tas i akt. Eller så menade USA att skulden för det i så fall föll på den etiopiska regeringen. Här ett inslag med Eugene Puryear från BreakThroughNews från den 22 december när beslutet var fattat.

Och här ett annat inslag från den 24 december där det sägs att 200 000 etiopier livnär sig genom AGOA, framförallt unga kvinnor som fått sina första jobb genom programmet. Även om de ekonomiska effekterna av politiken inte kommer att drabba landet särskilt hårt till en början, så kommer människorna att drabbas och Etiopien drabbas hårt på sikt. 

Beslutet verkställs

2022 verkställdes beslutet. USA uteslöt tre länder från AGOA som inte ansågs leva upp till stadgarna. Länderna var Etiopien, Mali och Guinea. Office of the United States Trade Representative släppte följande meddelande den 1 januari 2022:

The United States today terminated Ethiopia, Mali and Guinea from the AGOA trade preference program due to actions taken by each of their governments in violation of the AGOA Statute.

The Biden-Harris Administration is deeply concerned by the unconstitutional change in governments in both Guinea and Mali, and by the gross violations of internationally recognized human rights being perpetrated by the Government of Ethiopia and other parties amid the widening conflict in northern Ethiopia. 

Each country has clear benchmarks for a pathway toward reinstatement and the Administration will work with their governments to achieve that objective.

Den röda tråden – mänskliga rättigheter som triggerfaktor

Den röda tråden i relationen mellan USA – mer specifikt Biden-administrationen – och Etiopien 2021, var alltså att USA med mänskliga rättigheter som faktor triggades till att lägga många och mer eller mindre hårda sanktioner på Etiopiens första demokratiska regering. En regering som betonade att de ville göra allt för att upprätthålla mänskliga rättigheter, inte skada civila och värna rättssäkerhet, men att de befann sig i krig med en fiende som i många avseenden var starkare än dem, där de kämpade för sin nations självaste överlevnad. USA ignorerade detta på samma sätt som USA ignorerade att den föregående regimen TPLF, hade backats upp av USA trots att de hade brutit mot mänskliga rättigheter betydligt mer konsekvent, mer medvetet och mer vilseledande än den nya demokratiska regeringen kom i närheten av att göra.

Abiy Ahmed inleder julfirandet med att erbjuda försoning

Men i december 2021 hade kriget vänt. Abiy Ahmed hade begett sig till fronten och kombinationen av hans inspirerande ledarskap och de drönare Etiopien lyckades få tag i, vände krigslyckan. TPLF drevs tillbaka till Tigray och vädjade därifrån om internationell stöd. 

Abiy Ahmed kunde nu antingen gå in i Tigray och försöka med att totalt tillintetgöra TPLF. Det skulle bli svårt, och omöjligt att göra utan stora civila offer. Detta förstod Abiy inte skulle gå att göra, och lät bli. Men han ville uppnå mer än bara en kall vapenvila. Han efterlyste nu en nationell dialog med alla parter. Den 6 januari 2022 inför den etiopiska julen (som hålls enligt Etiopiens ortodoxa kyrkas kalender) meddelade Abiy Ahmed på Facebook (översättning via FB Translate):

Happy celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ!

We will celebrate this year’s birthday when our suffering is over, our problems are solved, and the source of our suffering is drying up. It is a holiday that we celebrate leaving our problems behind and looking beyond our hopes.

Han skriver vidare hur Jesusbarnets födelse och uppväxt försökte stoppas av Herodes. På samma sätt har Etiopiens demokratiska födelse försökt stoppas av fiender. Men de skulle misslyckas: 

The impregnated seed of change is being born and growing. Ethiopia is building bridges with the stones thrown at her, no one can stop her from going to fulfill her hopes.

… Ethiopia’s day is about to break the darkness, she is struggling with the darkness to shine. In this critical time, if we all do what we can, Ethiopia’s future will be bright without a doubt. Her suffering days will be over. Ethiopia will stand on a rock as a country that will not be raped and shamed.

There is something we should remember when we rise to serve Ethiopia. No matter how big and holy the goal we set is, it is meaningless if it is not put on humility. Great goals are not only their end, but also their execution is great and amazing. This is what the birth of Christ teaches us. When God sent his only son for a great purpose to save the world, he chose shepherds over great men, cattle over famous people, strength over thousands and palaces adorned with jewels. Such a great work as saving the world was done with humility. Christ taught us that great goals start with humility and end with humility.

Han förklarade sedan att försoningen var kristendomens främsta budskap, försoningen mellan Gud och människa, men också människor emellan. Och Etiopien var ett land genomsyrat av kristna:

The other birthday celebration will be considered as a sign of reconciliation among the Christians. The wall of conflict between God and Adam was first destroyed by his word, ”I will save you by being born from your grandson”.

The birth of Christ has shown that his words have turned into action, and that the reconciliation is inevitable. Adam was the one who broke the law and did injustice by the devil, but God is the one who gave up his son for reconciliation. To save Adam, to set him free from the burden of sin, Christ was born as a human being, his glory increased not decreased.

Conflicts have been created in our country because of the devil’s dances that are raised every year. The injustice that is being thrown after the conflict has struggled to destroy our coexistence values. But he didn’t cut them completely. Our social values will be replaced by forgiveness, and will be restored by reconciliation. This is the process that has kept us as a country.

We need national reconciliation to overcome the attacks that the Junta has committed on our defense force and the violence that has happened in the past one year. Since it will help us to maintain our unity, Ethiopia will benefit from the reconciliation. Just like the devil who lost because of the reconciliation between man and God, the evil aim of the terrorist groups TPLF and Shene will be destroyed because of the reconciliation of our country.

Happy birth day to us again.

I en annan Facebooktext blev han mer konkret. Han betonade vikten av försoning fred och en process där problem bröts genom dialoger, inte genom krig. Väl medveten om att det fanns hämndstämningar, inte minst bland Amhara, som skövlats så hårt av TPLF, betonade han dock att hans önskan till försoning inte skulle tolkas som svaghet eller eftergifter åt förbrytare. Det fanns röda linjer som regeringen aldrig skulle acceptera:

The government’s first choice is to solve problems in a sophisticated way. Peaceful way may seem tiring but it will greatly reduce human and material harm. It is possible to use the manpower and budget that could be used for war for prosperity. 

… There are red lines that should not be violated by any way of peace, forgiveness and love. Any solution that divides our national unity, violates our country’s dignity and sovereignty and endangers our state unity is not acceptable. Those who follow the path of betrayal and division will surely taste the arm of Ethiopians. Our hearts were always open to solve the issues related to the following issues around the table. And we will never lose our hands of peace.

The war we had with the terrorist TPLF and the messenger Shane was caused by the red line being broken.

Men han förklarade att försoning nu måste ske. Så hade Etiopien även gjort när de drev ut de italienska fascisterna på 1930-talet:

Ethiopian victory also knows mercy. We have forgiven the Italian soldiers who were killed in the Adwa war. Even the Italians were amazed by this and even thanked them in a demonstration. That is a great Ethiopian asset. Ethiopia is still in the glory of victory. We will make Ethiopia win by conducting justice and mercy together. On the one hand, we should see injustice and wrongs in a justice way, on the other hand, we should follow the path of forgiveness by giving room for correction and forgiveness.

Han förklarade sedan att vägen framåt var fyra steg: 1. Segern skulle behållas på ett holistiskt sätt över hela Etiopien 2. Politiska lösningar på problem skulle skydda den seger som uppnåtts 3. Barmhärtighet skulle följa i segerns fotspår, för att förhindra nya konflikter 4. De individer som gjort förbrytelser skulle emellertid straffas

Abiy Ahmeds förhållningssätt ur två perspektiv

Den 8 januari 2022 pålystes att ett antal fångar skulle släppas fria. Däribland Jawar Mohammad, Bekele Gerba, Dejene Tafa, Hamza Borana. Jawar Mohammad tillhörde dem som brukade hetsa upp Oromo-befolkningen mot regeringen, och de inhemska kritikerna, såväl som röster från diasporan, menade att Abiy Ahmed var för oförsiktig. Andra önskade att en hårdare ton skulle anslås mot TPLF. 

Det är en sida av myntet, som andra är bättre lämpade än jag att kommentera och där tiden får visa hur utfallet kommer att bli.

Den andra sidan av myntet är emellertid att Abiy Ahmed genom sitt agerande visar att hans regering inte är totalitär. Hans avsikt är inte att starta en cykel av vedergällningar eller hämnas på sina fiender, så som så många andra makthavare genom tiderna gjort när de befäst sin maktställning. Genom att agera med försoning i fokus, blir USA:s huvudsakliga skäl för att straffa Etiopien genom att hänvisa till brott mot mänskliga rättigheter, undergrävt. Denna aspekt tycks Abiys etiopiska kritiker inte vara tillräckligt införstådda i. Inte heller i hur viktigt detta är inför landets framtid.

I artikel två gjorde jag en parallell mellan Abiy Ahmed och Abraham Lincoln. En parallell baserad på båda ledares beslutsamhet i att försvara sina respektive unioner även om krig skulle krävas. 

Den finns emellertid också en annan likhet. Abraham Lincolns plan efter segern i inbördeskriget var att försonas med Sydstaterna, inte att köra över dem. När Lincoln mördades 1865 tog de radikala republikanerna över, som ville straffa södern för dess uppror och deras förespråkande av slaveriet. Konsekvensen av det blev årtionden av hat, framväxandet av grupper som Ku Klux Klan och fortsatta hårda motsättningar. Det skedde på grund av bristen av försoning.  

Genom att välja försoningens väg finns möjligheten att Abiy Ahmed kan lyckas med att göra det som inte riktigt lyckades i USA, nämligen att verkligen försona etniska motsättningar. Den konkreta vägen för detta måste lösas lokalt i samspråk mellan regering och alla inblandade parter och folkgrupper. Men utifrån historiens perspektiv, så är det den rätta vägen att försöka vandra.

Men när konflikten var som hetast hade det varit fel väg att gå. Det var därför Abiy sade nej till USA:s krav. Men efter segern är det rätt väg att gå: ”With victory, mercy and humility, we will make Ethiopia a lasting and stable winner”, skrev Abiy i sitt Facebook-inlägg. 

Därmed avslutas denna fjärde del som syftar till att beskriva den retoriska pingpong-match som drevs mellan USA:s och Etiopiens regering 2021. En dragkamp där Abiy Ahmeds regering blir mycket lättare att förstå och sympatisera med, om man faktiskt tar del av vad de hade att säga när USA kom med sina anklagelser.

I nästa del kommer den motrörelse, NoMore, som växte fram utifrån USA:s och aversionerna i västerländsk media, att beskrivas. 

Ronie Berggren

Läs också:

Konflikten i Etiopien – del 1: En demokrati föds och tvingas kämpa för överlevnad

Konflikten i Etiopien – del 2: Etiopien vinner kriget genom att inte låta sig dikteras

Konflikten i Etiopien – del 3: Vad som triggade västs U-sväng om Abiys regering

Konflikten i Etiopien – del 5: #NoMore – kampen mot västvärldens ensidiga medianarrativ

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