The current trans-Atlantic powers’ (US and EU) negative reaction towards the crisis in Tigray and the Nile dam and the concurrent reaction mainly by the Ethiopian media seem to have somehow eclipsed the real nature of the US. One has to situate what the US really is within the context of the post-Cold War situation, end of bi-polarity, the consequences of globalization, the changing scene at the global level, the world being on the verge of entering a second phase of bipolarity as a result of the rise of China as a global power, the cracks within the Western alliance, emergence of regional powers such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Brazil.
With the dissolution of the old USSR, bipolarity in world politics was assumed to have come to an end. Global peace appeared in the offing with the signing of the Good Friday agreement that ended the Irish conflict, the Oslo accord that paved the way for the rapprochement between the PLO and Israel, the end of Apartheid in South Africa, the end of Ziad Barre’s regime in Somalia and that of Mengistu in Ethiopia. However, no sooner than all these agreements were signed, the optimism toward global peace dashed with the election of the jingoist George W. Bush as US president who reignited the crisis in the Korean peninsula, antagonised Iran and rekindled the war in Iraq on grounds of a non-existing ‘’weapons of mass destruction”. Consequently, the differences that emerged within the NATO alliance led many NATO members to be inactive in the Iraq war. The US economy was greatly affected as a result of an $80 billion daily budget to sustain the war in Iraq. With that the Taliban revived and are now on the verge of taking power in Afghanistan once again. These differences within the NATO alliance and what passed as “the global economic meltdown” did not allow the only super-power, i.e. the US, to poke its nose wherever as it pleased. That led to the emergence of certain powers such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Brazil, etc… to play the role of a policeman in their respective regions.
It is within this regional context that the case of the Horn of Africa and Ethiopia in particular assume prominence. Meles Zenawi’s regime denied outright its Maoist dogma and proclaimed its allegiance to the market and neo-liberal economy outwardly, but maintained a highly centralized regime while publicly pronouncing the rights of secession though. The importance of the Horn of Africa sub-region lies in its strategic location that connects the volatile Arab World with Africa. Ethiopia is also strategically important being located on an important waterway that connects the Indian Ocean with the Mediterranean that accounts to a greater part of the world’s maritime trade. Secondly, Ethiopia can serve as a gateway to the Nile basin, Eastern and central Africa. With a huge population in Africa, only second to that of Nigeria, and with potential resources such as oil, minerals and being the seat of the African Union as well as the UN Economic Commission for Africa, Ethiopia is indeed crucially important. From the US and Western perspective, Ethiopia is also strategically important as it borders Somalia where Al Shabab is active.
However, according to the ‘development’ discourse that is dominant in this world, Ethiopia is considered as poor. Undoubtedly, the US politicians, intoxicated with the arrogance of power, seem to think that Ethiopia is condemned to extending its begging bowel forever. Ethiopia’s “poverty” is the card they always want to play to keep Ethiopia as their pawn. Certainly, poverty in the Western discourse constitutes lack of resources only. Consequently, Western powers opt to buy us by providing food and loans. Thus, they opt to think that so long as they provide ‘aid’, they can always command us which direction we should take. If you opt for an independent position even about your own problem, that will not be acceptable. Because, that goes against the wishes of Uncle Sam who thinks he knows what is better for you.
Ethiopia had earlier served as a pawn of the US for years when the emperor ruled the country. If some African countries belong to the categories of either Anglophone or Farncophone, the emperor’s government was a stooge of the US. The Kagnew Station in Asmara when Eritrea was still part of Ethiopia, served as an important espionage station relaying messages to Washington. It played a crucial role during the six days war by spying on troop movements of the Arab countries and relaying them to Washington which in turn relayed them to Tel Aviv. Ethiopia’s status as a pawn of the US ended during the Derg regime which in turn became a stooge of Moscow. One significant factor that needs to be spelt out unambiguously is the fact that the US played no part in contributing to the processes of social development and democratization in Ethiopia while it was the patron of the emperor’s regime. Whether or not the US has ever lifted its finger to galvanize development and/or democracy is still being observed today. Its interest is not development and democratization in Ethiopia, but controlling Ethiopia’s foreign policy to fit into its strategic objectives in the entire region that includes the Middle East. The US still wants Ethiopia to fight its dirty war in the region or elsewhere. The moment you express your independence and advance the interest of your country, you will immediately be labelled as communist and are subjected to assassination just like Lumumba and many others in Africa, Asia and Latin America were. It is in such situation that lies after lies are manufactured about you to be amplified by the media repeatedly until they are believed to be ‘true’. The history of the US is replete with manufacturing such lies both domestically and internationally. At the turn of the century, a great campaign of lies were unleashed against movements by American workers whose only demand was descent wages, and a lot of union leaders were assassinated. A great lie that passed as the ”Gulf of Tonkin Incident” was laid out only to start the war in Vietnam. John Kennedy opted for lies to invade Cuba during the infamous Bay of Pigs and Eugene McCarthy threw the US in turmoil in a campaign against “the spread of communism”. Aggressiveness and lies characterize particularly US foreign policy as lies are manufactured to ‘rationalize’ aggression or military intervention in foreign lands. In domestic politics FBI’s hawkish director, Edgar Hoover, had to accuse US civil rights leaders as communists before they were assassinated one by one, from Martin Luther King to Malcom X and Fred Hampton.
Such dark side of the US has always been covered up with the main instruments of the ideological state apparatus through manufacturing fantastic lies. Right from the start, the US has been built with monumental lies and deception directed against various indigenous leaders who have been negotiating with the US government (see Dee Brown’s Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee). Andrew Jackson, well known for his reputation as killer of indigenous leaders and a one-time slave trader (see Howard Zinn’s The People’s History of the United States), became at one point the president of the US and is still revered having his picture on the 5 dollar bill. It is to be remembered that Obama’s attempt to have his picture removed from the dollar bill raised the wrath of racist America including Trump. As these lines are written, grave sites of indigenous children who died in government/church sponsored boarding schools in a forced assimilation programme being are found in Canada and the US. These crimes were committed 100 years after the founding of the United States and its ‘democracy’. So far Canada’s prime minister, Trudeau, has apologised for Canada’s dark past. But, nothing has so far come out of Biden’s White House.
The US as a country has chronic problems of human rights violations to solve before it ostentatiously brag about human rights violations abroad. Fundamental freedoms and human rights are still trampled underfoot in the US. The wounds of the cruel and immoral practices of slavery have not yet healed as Afro-Americans are still gunned down by police. The indigenous peoples of the US who have been deceived all the time have not yet been compensated with what they deserve. On the contrary, their rights to their ancestral lands are still violated (Dakota.) Violence against US women is still rampant; every 90 seconds a woman is raped in the US, the “symbol of democracy and human rights.” Gun violence has become a scourge for the ordinary citizen. The US has to first address these crimes seriously before it lectures us about human rights violations. Let’s see you first clean up your house and solve these monumental problems.
But, what right has the US got to meddle in our affairs? Who gave them this right? Not the United Nations Charter or any other UN convention/declaration for sure. This is a fundamental question regarding the sovereignty of nations and no nation has the right to meddle in the affairs of others. The US, even if it opts to express its concern on what is going on in Tigray, cannot raise issues that violate Ethiopia’s sovereignty. What right has the US got to demand the withdrawal of the special forces of the Amhara region from Tigray? How come they haven’t said anything regarding the civilian massacre by TPLF forces in Maikadra, their active involvement in civilian massacres in Oromiya and Benishangul regions? Given the double standard which the trans-Atlantic powers exercise, Ethiopia or any other nation has no right to demand the US to stop the killings of Afro-Americans, the shameful culture of rape and gun violence. If it does, certainly it will be labelled as a nation run by lunatics. Isn’t it obvious that it is only the trans-Atlantic powers that exercise such power simply because they have the money and the riches that obviously were amassed through colonization and neo-colonization?
If your design is to bring Ethiopia to its knees, monsieur le capital, then we would like to remind you that we are Ethiopians and we have never, -repeat NEVER!- bowed to foreign pressure. Your desire as regards the Nile dam is to please Israel by making favour to Egypt so that it would in turn recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which is against international law (Security Council Resolution 242.). (Speaking of violating international law, the US has always stood with Israel by rejecting UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions in numerous cases. (For the list of these resolutions, see William Blum’s Rogue State.)
The US has now managed to rally the EU with its hegemonic and imperialistic pressure on Ethiopia as regards the war in Tigray and the Renaissance dam. Rationality will soon reign within EU when European powers realize the lies manufactured by TPLF’s foreign lobbyists and the grave mistake they have made. The US is also amplifying what the police state in Egypt says about the Renaissance dam. Egyptian politicians portray Ethiopia and Ethiopians as heartless who don’t give a damn if the peoples of Egypt and Sudan die of thirst. This by itself is insolent and outrageously cheap. The US is well aware that sometime in 2015 a panel of water experts/engineers from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan came out with the conclusion that the Renaissance dam would not pose significant harm to both Egypt and Sudan. The foreign minister of Egypt confirmed this twice in the last two months and just ten days ago Sudan’s foreign minister also reiterated the same thing. Then, what is all this noise now? Isn’t the real agenda of the US, EU, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Sudan something beyond the dam? The US conveniently chose to be quiet in face of one of the most ferocious military dictatorships, Al Sisi’s regime. How come the US that claims the title of ‘champion’ of human rights and democracy, looks the other way when Al Sisi massacred in cold blood Egyptian protesters, closed down all avenues of free expression, hunts down young activists who are fighting for democracy?
One thing that the trans-Atlantic powers should understand is the fact that there now prevails in Ethiopia political unanimity both among the government and public t on the Tigray conflict and the Renaissance Dam. The success of the recent parliamentary elections is a reflection of this unanimity. The more the West accuses Abiy, the more popular they make him. For Ethiopians, there is nothing that is dear as freedom and independence. As Ho Chi Minh once said, “There is nothing more precious than independence”. But, independence always comes at a cost and none other than we Ethiopians know this very well; and is well prepared to pay for it.
The writer can be reached at [email protected]. The views expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter.
Contributed by Mesfin Habtu