The unprecedented pressure Ethiopia has been subjected to at the hands of Western governments, the U.N., mainstream media, think-tanks and rights groups ever the administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) commenced a military operation in the country’s northern Tigray region a little over a year ago has been ratcheted up. The U.S. particularly seems to be putting its thumb on the scale in favor of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), whose forces launched an unprovoked attack on the troops of the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) based in the northern region of Tigray on November 3, 2020. Aside from slapping a slew of sanctions on Ethiopia and withdrawing its benefits under the United States’ tariff-free African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the U.S. has not only urged its citizens to leave Ethiopia immediately, but also cautioned that pilots operating planes at one of Africa’s busiest airports could be “directly or indirectly exposed to ground weapons fire and/or surface-to-air fire” citing the ongoing war between Ethiopian forces and fighters from the TPLF. The U.K. and other European governments have also joined the U.S. in advising their citizens not to travel to Ethiopia. Furthermore, the U.S. and its allies at the U.N. Security Council have tried multiple times to censure Ethiopia but failed thanks to the vote of China, Russia and India. Apart from exerting diplomatic pressure, the West has also been waging a psychological warfare against Ethiopia by through a disinformation campaign undertaken by the mainstream media, think tanks and so-called rights advocacy organizations. It’s meddling in the country’s internal affairs under humanitarian pretexts in furtherance of its end-game—to engineer a regime change or failing that to coerce Prime Minister Abiy’s administration into capitulating to the demands of the TPLF.
It’s not only over the Tigray conflict that the West is pressurizing Ethiopia though. The filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has been a bone of contention between Ethiopia, whose highlands supply more than 85 percent of the water that flows into the Nile River, and the lower riparian states of Sudan and Egypt. In 2020 the U.S., at the behest of Egypt, tried to force Ethiopia into signing a binding agreement on the filling period. The Ethiopian government declined to sign-off a U.S.-drafted agreement regulating the filling time of the dam, which Egypt insisted should be completed over 12-21 years, saying it has the right to fill the dam at its own pace and would do so in no more than seven years. Although Sudan initially supported the building of the dam, since then it has taken Egypt’s side on the ground that filling the dam without the agreement of downstream countries imperiled its national security. Understandably, all parties to the dispute are wary of setting a precedent they may rue later. Egypt and Sudan lack confidence in Ethiopia’s assurances that the manner in which it fills the dam will not significantly reduce the river’s water flow. They are of the belief that they will be adversely affected if Ethiopia does not commit to releasing a minimum amount of water during times of prolonged drought. On its part, Ethiopia is rightfully unwilling to relent, apprehensive of the prospect that acceding to a legally enforceable obligation is tantamount to compromising its sovereign right to use the waters of the Nile in a fair and equitable manner.
The West’s motivations behind the betrayal of Ethiopia, its long-standing regional ally, are purely self-interested and zero-sum. It is none too pleased with Ethiopia’s pursuing of an independent foreign policy, which it apparently has deemed to stand in the way of the attainment of its strategic vision in the Middle East and Africa. On the one hand, Ethiopia’s reluctance to do the West’s bidding has been perceived to make it harder to protect the interests of Egypt—the linchpin of its Middle East policy. On the other hand, its attempt to strike a delicate geopolitical balancing act between the West and China is not appreciated by the West as it’s locked in the New Cold War with Beijing. Given Ethiopia has been a beacon of black Africans’ struggle for freedom and could well inspire continental resistance to neo-colonialism, the West might very well believe that turning Ethiopia against China is instrumental in containing its top geopolitical rival in the New Cold War’s “African theater”.
Ethiopians and Africans in general must realize that the coordinated pressure the West is bringing to bear on Ethiopia is not only about bringing a proud nation of over 110 million people to its knees; it’s also a shot across the bow to other African countries thinking of fighting back against its neo-colonial designs. The West better realize though that the undemocratic and unipolar global world order that had prevailed over the last several decades following the end of the Cold War is ebbing, heralding the impending demise of its hegemony. As a country that has never been colonized and is home to a fiercely patriotic people, Ethiopia will never cave in to the West’s demands. If the West does not desist from its misguided course of action out of a misconception that Ethiopia will capitulate, the Ethiopian government is bound to snub any negotiation spearheaded or managed by partisan actors and thereby harden its position. Ethiopia has the capacity to find a resolution to the political crisis engulfing it. Anyone who has its interest at heart should stop meddling in its domestic affairs and instead support it in seeking enduring solutions. In particular Africans need to come together in defense of Ethiopia for if they stand by it during its hour of need it will be their turn next.