Just as Ethiopian government forces appear to have turned the tide in the country’s so-called civil war, the Biden administration is urging U.S. citizens in Ethiopia to leave and offering relocation assistance to those who cannot afford plane tickets.
Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has visited Addis Ababa and made it clear that China fully supports the government of Ethiopia. This is in contrast to the United States, which has imposed sanctions on Ethiopia, but not on the rebellious Tigray.
As Bloomberg reports, the US suspended duty-free access to its exports last month “due to gross human rights violations,” which remain largely undocumented.
The US has shown no interest in atrocities by Tigray troops, nor the theft of UN-sponsored relief supplies taken by the retreating Tigray army.
China also supplies weapons to the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF), including medium and long-range armed Wing Loong drones.
Sensing the significant vacuum in Ethiopia, Iran is also supplying its Muhajer-6 armed drones, the same weapons used by Iran’s proxy Hezbollah in Syria.
The UAE had previously supplied drones and some Israeli weapons to Ethiopia, including Chinese-made Wing Loongs.
China is clearly taking advantage of the opening created by the UAE and is jumping in, along with Iran, to evict the UAE (mistakenly perceived as a US proxy) and other Western suppliers and lenders.
The war in Ethiopia has recently turned in favor of the government, which seemed almost defeated a few weeks ago when the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was located about 150 miles from the capital Addis Ababa.
But in a short space of time, Ethiopia has been rallying its army, gaining significant political and arms support from China and Iran, and apparently changing the course of the war.
Meanwhile, thousands of Ethiopians in the United States, some protesting in front of the White House, are angry that the US has sided with TPLF forces against the country’s legitimate government.
The US government claims to have supported peace negotiations between the two sides to the conflict, through African intermediaries.
But brokering a peace deal amid undecided conflict is unlikely to gain momentum, not least because Addis Ababa sees talks as a way to force the country to give up territory, even legitimacy, in return. for ending the war.
The US says it is neutral on the actual dispute, but US behavior, including the imposition of sanctions by Biden on Ethiopia on September 17 and then on Eritrea on November 12 for aiding Ethiopia, has made clear whose side the US is on. .
In effect, the Biden administration opened the door to China and Iran by convincing Addis Ababa that there was no future with the US or its allies and partners.
The US is speaking with both sides of its mouth, a fact noted by Today News Africa journalist and commentator Simon Ateba.
Ateba points out that USAID administrator Samantha Power has condemned Ethiopia in tweets, while others, most notably US Envoy to the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman, have tried to talk to both sides — albeit unsuccessfully.
America’s inability to exploit the conflict and its dishonesty in supporting the Tigray rebels who started the war has clearly placed Ethiopia’s future much more clearly in China’s hands, marking a major diplomatic defeat for Biden and Blinken.
While it is still not clear that the ENDF will continue its march north to Tigray and actually defeat the TPLF, the US will not be the one to help resolve the conflict.
If Ethiopia wins or at least completely contain Tigray, it will emerge as the largest power in the Horn of Africa.
Before the Tigray War, Ethiopia had one of the world’s fastest GDP growth rates, with significant investment in infrastructure and education. Ethiopia’s economy is shifting from agriculture to services and industry.
If Ethiopia can escape Egypt’s downstream wrath over its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project, it will become Africa’s largest hydroelectric resource. Since 2000, China has invested $12 billion in Ethiopian projects.
As of 2016, there were 305,800 Ethiopians in the United States, a number that may have grown closer to 450,000 by 2021. As they emigrated to many U.S. cities, including Seattle, Atlanta, and Minneapolis, the number in the Washington DC area grew from 10,000 in 1980 to 30,000 in 2010.
The numbers continue to rise in the US capital, as does the economic and political clout of the small but industrious and active community.
Whether this will affect future US policy is unclear, but what is clear is that the Biden administration has paid little to no attention to the overseas Ethiopian community, just as it has lost almost all influence in Ethiopia, once a ally.