US Eritrea Policy, Misguided and Harmful

JUNE 16, 2013 |

US Eritrea policy has always been to subjugate Eritrea and place it under the custodianship of Ethiopia

By Amanuel Biedemariam,

How can Americans measure the effectiveness of US policy on a given nation? What are the benchmarks?  How are agendas, objectives, and values measured? For example, does the US have an interest in Eritrea, and what are these interests? How does US Eritrea relation benefit Americans? And so forth…

Hardly anyone can answer these questions, including most of those in government circles. However, when it is an obscure country, alien to the average citizen, say Eritrea, the likelihood of Americans knowing is nil or slightly above zero. 

These questions are what Americans need to ask if they want to understand why people feel the ways they do about the US, be it positive or negative. Americans need to take a proactive approach to understand US policies, relations, and their impact on the world. That is the only way that they can affect their destiny and develop better relations with the world. It is also one way they can hold governmental and political leaders accountable.

That is when  Americans can decide global matters based on a concrete understanding of the world first hand instead of basing their views, opinions, and perceptions on what diplomats, politicians, media, governmental or nongovernmental agencies say,

As an Eritrean-American, and as someone who is personally affected by US policies on Eritrea and as a longtime observer of US policies of the region, it is critical to appealing to Americans and leaders to reevaluate the policies hopefully change them for the better.

It is essential to look back at the history and the genesis to understand how the policies endured because it is vital to evaluate its ramifications.

These policies are regionally-attuned with a broader US plan in perspective. To quote  John Foster Dulles, who served as US Secretary of State under Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower who said:

“From the point of view of justice, the opinion of the Eritrean people must receive consideration. Nevertheless, the strategic interests of the United States in the Red Sea Basin and world peace make it necessary that the country be linked with our ally Ethiopia.”

The sentiment of the statement sealed the fate of Eritrea, immersing them in a long protracted conflict with Ethiopia because it forced unity. Eritrea was dismantled as a nation systematically by destroying the civil society organizations and the parliamentary body that existed then. They denied the people their rights to accommodate US interests through manipulations, extortion, and sheer force.

The US pushed its interests in pursuit of global geopolitical, economic, and security interests. The question is, what has changed since? Have the interests changed or stopped? How did the initial plan to subjugate Eritrea further US interests?  What is the current geopolitical standing? Has it helped or hurt the people of the region? Did it secure or help secure world peace? Furthermore, was world peace ever a genuine interest?

The simple answer is nothing has changed. The US is still pursuing the Red Sea Basin, but instead of World Peace, the theme has changed to Global War on Terror (GWOT)human rights, and humanitarian agendas.

The GWOT gives the US carte-blanche to infiltrate any territory that it can without having to justify or require permission, as witnessed in Somalia under the pretext of fighting terrorism because The War on Terrorism has essentially nullified the War Powers Act.  The President can go to war with any nation claiming “Fighting Terror” without going to Congress for permission.

The stability and viability of nations in the Horn of Africa have since deteriorated drastically since WWII. Despite claims of peace, Somalia remains unstable. Systemic continuous interventions by the West and Ethiopia have dissolved the public institutions. The sustained assault has damaged the government institution that a generation of children of Somalia has gone without education. The deprivation will have a lingering effect on Somalis, with spinoff damages that will linger for decades. The massive loss of life combined with persistent deprivation amounts to one of humanity’s greatest calamities.

The Horn of Africa (HoA) has seen a steady decline due to outside interventions. Instabilities in Sudan, South Sudan, and Somalia provide stark examples of what external interferences can do. The region’s future is bleak if US policies continue on the same path, particularly against Eritrea.

US Eritrea policy has always been to subjugate Eritrea and place it under the custodianship of Ethiopia. The question is, how did that strategy pan out the first time around? They undermined Eritrea and, as a result, forced it to fight a war for Independence for thirty years. The amount of human and material loss for Eritrea and the region was incalculable. It set back developments by decades, turning Eritrea into barren land. Eritrea was stripped bare of her human and material wealth. And no one is accountable.

Undeterred by the odds, after a thirty-year war, the people of Eritrea managed to eject Ethiopia out of Eritrea by force and won Independence. Furthermore, after it controlled its territories, Eritrea penetrated deep into Ethiopia, yanked the leadership, and handed the people of Ethiopia freedom from the brutal Dergue regime of Ethiopia.

At that time, the farsighted leaders of Eritrea did the right thing by keeping Ethiopia intact since they believed that the interests of Eritrea, Ethiopia, and the world were served well by a united and strong Ethiopia.

For about seven years, peace reigned in the region. A new era of cooperation existed among the nations and the region’s people, giving people hope that a sense of lasting peace. That, however, was short-lived. As soon as Eritrea asserted Independence by releasing her currency, the race to undermine Eritrea’s Independence started with full force because the US and Ethiopia did not want a strong independent Eritrea.

With the full cooperation of the US, Ethiopia unleashed an all-out war under the pretext of a border dispute. Ethiopia waged war to undermine the Independence of Eritrea. Twenty thousand Eritreans died between 1998-2000. After the war ended, Eritrea and Ethiopia cemented a final and binding Algiers Agreement to draw the borders.

However, in breach of international laws, with the full support of the US, the minority regime in Ethiopia flouted the international agreement it signed and declared a new war named “No War No Peace ” designed to weaken Eritrea into submission slowly and methodically.

Wikileaks made public how US and Ethiopian authorities collaborated to undermine Eritrea at the UN, AU, EU, IGAD, and all over to pursue the illegal sanctions as part of the No War No Peace campaign.

They used everything at their disposal to weaken and conduct a regime change. To incite revolt, tried to suffocate Eritrea economically, politically, militarily, and diplomatically. They left nothing unturned. They targeted everything, including the youth, social, ethnic, and religious fabrics of the nation. They failed.

The US gave cart blanch to the TPLF to impose its will on the people of Ethiopia and undermine Eritrea. It gave the minority regime uncontrolled powers to create an ethnically based system that could manipulate using a divide and rule system.

The US provided military, financial, political, and diplomatic support for the regime.

The TPLF had all the political cover it needed on the hill. They overlooked gross human rights violations, including genocides in the OgadenGambella, and the Amhara regions of Ethiopia and ethnic cleansing of communities to sell farm-lands to multinational organizations. The US accorded the TPLF immunity from war crimes in Somalia and gave it cover from international laws for breaching arms embargo and invading Somalia.

No one held TPLF responsible for putting tens of thousands of Ethiopians in prison and killing hundreds on Addis’s streets during a peaceful demonstration. It was a global spectacle, and the TPLF quelled the dissent with brut force. No western outrage.

No rebukes or outrage against the TPLF even after Ethiopian forces used Humvees to kill innocent demonstrators.

Interestingly, the only outrage the US showed was because of the use of the Humvees to attack civilians. That created a PR nightmare for the vehicle’s image.

The TPLF stole billions and funneled it to their home base Tigray, in the name of Ethiopia. The TPLF had money and the ability to buy influence using big-name lobbyists in Washington DC.

The US accorded the minority regime many advantages. The government received access to the G8 and G-20 meetings, made the regime representative of African countries on critical global matters, and placed them in a position of international influence. Using the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa as an advantage, the

the regime exploited its relations with Washington to manipulate African leaders in Ethiopia.

The minority TPLF regime used these advantages to pursue narrow agenda at the expense of regional and continental interests.

The US created a spoiled child who is not concerned about the people it should serve or the neighbors. The wellbeing of the people of Ethiopia and the region became inconsequential to the regime. Only the US and Western interests received priorities. 

As a result, the government finds itself in isolation and under pressure from within and its neighbors.

Hostilities against Eritrea and joint US and Ethiopia campaigns are ongoing unabated to the detriment of the people of Ethiopia and the region. Ethiopia is fractured like glass, ready to shatter from external and internal pressures. Many studies, including US National Intelligence Council Global Trends 2010, have reported about Ethiopia’s fragility.

For decades the US pinned Eritrea using Ethiopia. However, what the US is currently pursuing is a threat to the very existence of Eritrea. If the US wants the region’s stability and gives Ethiopia a chance to remain intact, the demarcated borders must be respected. Ethiopia, a client state of the US, must be made to respect the Algiers Agreement, a treaty is signed, complete the Hague decision, and exit sovereign Eritrean territories. Ethiopia must realize it cannot negate a treaty it signed because nothing can change that.

Eritrea won Independence with blood. Eritreans have paid dearly to be where they are today. The US needs to understand that no matter what is done to undermine Eritrea’s Independence at the UN and other avenues, the people of Eritrea will stand solid and resist as they have during the armed struggle.

The US has pushed Eritrea as far as possible and found walls it cannot penetrate for decades. In the process, the situation in Ethiopia has deteriorated to the point, if unchecked, it will be uncontrollable. The most critical fact in this is that the US must be clear that Ethiopia cannot survive at the expense of Eritrea.

The US must ease the tension and back off to allow Eritrea and Ethiopia to resume natural relations as sovereign nations. The leaders of Eritrea have ascertained that they want a united and strong Ethiopia.

The TPLF  is a liability to the US interests because it odds with all. There is no way Ethiopia and countries in the area to accept the TPLF. Eventually, the US must hold the TPLF accountable to maintain US interests.

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