The following opinion piece (questioning the West’s motives in the Ethiopia war conflict) was written by Dr. Yonas Gizaw, Dr. Wagaw Bogale and political science lecturer Abebe Yirga. The writers say “In this article, we will explore the fundamental reasons why the West is wagging multifaceted war against Ethiopia.”
Ethiopia is one of the oldest states in the world. It is also Africa’s oldest independent country. Ethiopia is one of the few countries in the world with uninterrupted government for over millennia and the only uncolonized African country. In spite of its glorious history, Ethiopia has faced ethnic conflicts since the formation of an ethnic-based federal system 30 years ago. This federation was introduced by The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), with support from Western countries. Such ethnic-based boundaries undermined the cultural, geographic, historical, and traditional bonds and undermined relationships strengthened forged between Ethiopia’s tribes over millennia.
Historically, ethnic segregation in Africa is the legacy of colonialism’s “divide and rule” ideology. Supported by the Western countries, the TPLF came to power in 1991. For 27 years, until they were removed from power by a popular uprising in 2018, the TPLF ruled Ethiopia with an iron fist. The current conflict between the federal government and TPLF is the product of the latter’s ambition to regain power through force. TPLF forces attacked the Northern Command of the national army in November 2020 and massacred thousands of troops in the middle of the night, in their sleep.
The federal government has a legal and moral obligation to save the integrity of the country and its people and bring the rule of law in a region that desperately needed it. Despite long standing and respectful relationship, the West (US, UK and EU), has put unprecedent and multidimensional pressure (economic, diplomatic, military, and support the terrorist, media campaign) to undermine democratically elected government, and to dismantle Ethiopia taking advantage of the current crisis.
In this article, we will explore the fundamental reasons why the West is wagging multifaceted war against Ethiopia.
Economic Importance of Africa
For centuries, Africa has been brutally exploited by the West. Its rich natural resources, history, human resources, and culture have been stolen, exploited, and (de)shaped by the colonial powers. Africa is the source of economic backbone for the West. Even after the post-colonial era, these economic exploitations gravely continued. Each year, “ $203 bn leaves the continent”. Sub-Saharan Africa subsidizes the rest of the world. Howard Nicholas, an Economics professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam, during his Public Lecture at the International Institute of Social Studies, said:
“We keep Africa where it is to keep impoverished for the prosperity of everyone else.” All the global economic institutions and economics we teach everyone is designed to keep Africa where it is. If Africa is going to prosper then that is a big price West is going to pay. I assure you the West is not going to allow that without a big fight”
As the oldest nation that did not fall into the colonialism trap, Ethiopia, has been giving ultimate value to liberty, independence, and freedom. Ethiopia is the first African nation that won against the European colonial power, Italy, in 1896 at the battle of Adwa,. The Adwa victory was marked as the springboard by Africans and Blacks across the world to fight against their white colonial masters. The Adwa Victory is the benchmark for the first African revolution against colonialism. Ethiopians are the people who would not compromise these national values.
The Role of Ethiopia to the Independence of Africa and Pan Africanism
Ethiopia is considered as a symbol of freedom and the “mother of African Independence” as Uhuru Kenyatta has explained. Ethiopia has contributed to African independence and anti-apartheid struggles. As Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia said during the inauguration of the Union, “we look to the vision of an Africa not merely free but united…. Our liberty is meaningless unless all Africans are free”, declaring the Second African Revolution. Due to this, Ethiopia trained and supported Nelson Mandela (of South Africa) and leaders of ZANU-PF (of Zimbabwe) for their struggle against the colonizer.
Ethiopia has tirelessly taken the initiative and commitment to unite the disunited and vulnerable African states, which ultimately championed the establishment of the Organization of African Union (OAU), now African Union, at the beginning of the 1960s. The establishment of the Union has marked the beginning of The Second African Revolution. In this wave, Ethiopia’s role in the struggle for the complete decolonization of Africa is phenomenal. The first chairman of OAU, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, in his speech while accepting his chairmanship, stated
“Africa’s victory, although proclaimed, is not yet total and areas of resistance remain. Today, we name as our first great task the final liberating of those Africans still dominated by foreign exploitation and control. With a goal in sight and unqualified triumph within our grasp, let us not now falter or lag or relax. We must make one final supreme effort; now, when the struggle grows weary, when so much has been won that the thrilling sense of achievement has brought us near satiation.”
The Strategic Importance of the Red Sea
The Red Sea is the most critical region geoeconomically, strategically, and geopolitically. Each year, more than 10% of the world’s cargo ships pass through the Red Sea. As long as oil continues as an important source of energy, this strategic area continues to become the playground for competition among the world powers. By 2050, trade through the Red Sea is expected to grow from $881 billion to $4.7 trillion. That is why Ambassador Alex Rondos, EU’s special representative in the Horn of Africa, in his public lecture at NUPI has said,
“Red Sea is our commercial lifeline…The collapse of Shipping in the Red Sea affects Europe immediately. It means it will have a devastating effect on the economy of the region”.
The neocolonial West are not comfortable with the stability of the Horn of Africa and the Red sea regions. The fragile region is vulnerable so it could be easily exploited and subjugated by the neocolonialists than the stable region. The West doesn’t want to see alliance between the east African countries; Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. The former US special envoy to the Horn of Africa, Ambassador Jeffrey D. Feltman, has equated this alliance with the unholy marriage between authoritarian leaders. Lencho Bati, former Foreign Policy Adviser to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed and now the ambassador to Saudi Arabia revealed that the US was not happy about Abiy’s plan to stabilize the Horn of Africa through improving relationships with states in the region.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam
Appeasing Egypt, at the cost of Ethiopia, is the second main reason why the west stands against Ethiopia.
The US position on the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has been a predicament. After the camp David Agreement between Israel and Egypt, the US has been committed to helping Egypt to maintain its hydro hegemony. On the other hand, it has been obstructing Ethiopia not to develop its Abbay/Nile water. Former President of the US, Donald Trump, was unfairly meddling in the tripartite negotiations on the dam to make the project a sacrificial lamb for his Deal of the Century between Israel and Palestinian is a good example.
Tibor P. Nagy, Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs of the United States, admitted that “during the Trump Administration the US took a pro-Egyptian point of view on the whole issue of the GERD”. However, Ethiopia has rejected this unfair pressure that forces itself to accept Egypt’s monopoly over the shared river.
The track record of Ethiopia’s agenda for complete (economic, political and cultural) liberation of Africa is not settling well with the West. The alliance of the Horn of African nations to create a stable region was not taken lightly. Furthermore, the eruption of the Third African Revolution (#NoMore movement) by Ethiopians exacerbated the West’s nervousness.
To stop the revolution the west has been wagging the war against Ethiopia through their puppet, the TPLF, for over 14 months. More specifically, exploitation of cheap raw materials, maintaining geopolitical interests, and geostrategic interests of the West in Africa would not be maintained should all Africans are liberated from neocolonialism. The spill-over effects of Ethiopia’s struggle to other African countries should make the West gravely worried unless it changes course and treat Africans as equals.
The West’s choice to dismantle Ethiopia and weaken the Horn of Africa is wrong and it would harm both sides. A united Ethiopia and a peaceful Africa benefits both sides through trade and other bilateral relations.
Writers and Contributors
1. Abebe Yirga Lecturer at the Department of Political Sciences and International Studies, Bahir Dar University Researcher at the Blue Nile Water Institute, Bahir Dar University [email protected]
2. Yonas Gizaw, PhD Adj. Prof. Purdue University [email protected]
3. Wagaw Bogale, PhD Assistant Prof. at the Department of History and Heritage Management, Bahir Dar University [email protected]