Washington .. How did you get into the heart of the Ethiopian crisis?
Washington- Away from the battlefields between the Addis Ababa government and the forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and its allies, the American capital, Washington, has become an important theater for the Ethiopian conflicts, witnessing remarkable activity and intense activities by the parties to the conflict.
The American capital has become a center for pro- and anti-government demonstrations alike, as it witnesses press conferences for representatives of the conflicting parties, in addition to contracts with lobby companies and public relations.
Some members of Congress have also shown a great deal of interest in Ethiopia. Last week, for example, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee proposed a bill to deal with Ethiopia. There is also a similar interest in the House of Representatives.
Here, the former Washington ambassador to Ethiopia, David Shen, points out that the reasons for the Congress’s interest in Ethiopia are the same as for the White House and the State Department, in addition to the fact that in some cases there is a large gathering of the Ethiopian community in some congressional districts, and from here the congressman cares about what matters to the residents of his constituency.
Divisions and lobbies
The Ethiopian community in the United States is closely following the events, and the American media pays great attention to this issue, and some newspapers have written several editorials on the crisis, and the major research centers concerned with international affairs have also been concerned.
The announcement of an alliance of 9 rebel organizations from different regions and ethnicities in Ethiopia with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front from the American capital caused great inconvenience to the divided community in the capital region.
The Ethiopian government and its opponents from the Tigray region have turned to Washington lobby and public relations firms in recent months.
After the outbreak of fighting last year, the Ethiopian embassy contracted with the pressure company “Venable” to work on improving Addis Ababa’s position in the corridors of the capital and among senior officials, especially in the White House, the State Department and both houses of Congress, and the company’s contract with the Ethiopian government expired last April .
The documents of the Ministry of Justice, which Al-Jazeera Net viewed, showed the company communicating with a number of members of Congress, and arranging a number of meetings for the Ethiopian ambassador, Fitsum Arega, with a number of senators.
And last month, the Ethiopian government brought in former Congressman Joe Garcia through a new public affairs contract with Mercury.
The former Florida congressman is the first former legislator to represent the Ethiopian government, and the contract came after the Biden administration accused the Ethiopian government of committing “ethnic cleansing” crimes in areas of Tigray region.
For its part, the Tigray Center for Information and Communications – which has an office in the suburb of Alexandria, Virginia – contracted with the lobby company “Von Batten-Montague-York” in order to push the administration of President Joe Biden and Congress to remove all Eritrean military personnel and Eritrean militias from Tigray.
The company is also working on Washington to put pressure on the Ethiopian government to allow open access to humanitarian aid and to appoint an independent investigator to prove allegations of war crimes committed by the Ethiopian military against the Tigray people as stated in the contract submitted to the Ministry of Justice.
During a seminar hosted by the US Institute of Peace last week, Washington’s special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, spoke about his country’s interests in this region, and said that the top priority of the United States is the “unity and integrity of the Ethiopian state” and its “commitment to the Ethiopian people.”
Feltman noted that the average lifespan of a civil war lasts 20 years, and that if war breaks out, it will be catastrophic for Ethiopia, and urged all parties to the conflict to “give peace a chance.”
On the other hand, the Addis Ababa government rejected a road map to end the crisis in Ethiopia presented by Ambassador Feltman, which includes a ceasefire, the withdrawal of forces until November 4, the delivery of humanitarian aid, and the immediate start of dialogue.
Feltman indicated that the Biden administration is ready to impose sanctions targeting all parties to the conflict and those who obstruct the provision of humanitarian assistance.
In turn, former Washington ambassador to Ethiopia David Sheen indicates in an interview with Al Jazeera Net that the Biden administration is concerned about the stability of Ethiopia because it is an old friend of the United States and the key to stability throughout the Horn of Africa.
A recent report by the Congressional Research Service – the research arm of members of Congress – states that “Ethiopia’s stability and development are among the priorities of the United States’ participation due to its size, its vulnerability to food insecurity and its location in a volatile but strategic region, and joint efforts have sought to alleviate humanitarian crises and endemic poverty and combat terrorism and regional instability.
The report pointed out that the opportunity to develop relations with Ethiopia provided an opportunity to deepen relations, including in the context of competition with China.
Observers considered that Washington’s greatest regional concern with what is happening in Ethiopia is Somalia and the possibility of that country being used as a platform for international terrorism.
Observers expect that the failure of the state in Ethiopia will make things much worse in Somalia, and Washington fears that the instability in Ethiopia will result in a revival of terrorism in all of East Africa.
Speaking to public radio, Cameron Hudson, a former official and Africa expert at the Atlantic Council, noted that such environments are fertile ground for extremism, and this part of the world could export instability much further.
Hudson expressed the fear that the Horn of Africa could become a magnet for terrorists from around the world who are looking for a safe haven to train and plan operations around the world.
Biden’s administration and the Ethiopian crisis
Last September, President Joe Biden issued an executive order authorizing sanctions against parties “complicit in prolonging” the conflict in the Tigray region.
Feltman acknowledged that it was unusual to announce sanctions without mentioning the target party, and made clear that the administration wanted to give all actors a chance to turn toward peace.
On November 2, Biden informed Congress of his intention to end the preferential trade classification of Ethiopia as of early 2022, which deprives Ethiopia of the gains of the “African Growth and Opportunity Act”, which facilitates the access of African countries’ exports to American markets.
Months ago, Biden sent his friend, Democratic Senator Chris Coons, to Addis Ababa to meet with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to convey the administration’s “serious concerns about the humanitarian crisis and human rights abuses in the Tigray region.”
The Biden administration also announced an additional $52 million in humanitarian aid for those affected by the conflict.
For his part, Ambassador Shin considered that stopping the United States a limited amount of development aid directed to Ethiopia and its threat to use targeted sanctions against anyone in the government or its opponents may contribute to reducing tension and defusing the conflict.
But he emphasized that the problem is that there are more options in imposing sanctions on the government than those that can be imposed on a rebel organization, and as a result the sanctions tend to be directed to one side.