Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman: Too Late Too Little to Ethiopia,
I watched and listened to with utmost interest and expectation the presentation of President Biden’s envoy for the Horn Africa, Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman.
Generally, the Tigraian people appreciate the positions of the US Government officials including the former Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, the current director of USAID and the incumbent US Ambassador to the UN Lynda Thomas Greenfield for their honest assessment of the war in Tigrai.
The war was a deliberate invasion by Eritrea who lost a similar war of aggression in the so called Badme strip of Ethiopia in the year 1998-2000. The reason de etre for the ongoing devastating war, however, are a complex of interplays of the politics of the Red Sea. To start with, there is a historical parallel between the eastern coast of the Red sea and the western side.
About 1,500 years back, the most powerful emperor of the Aksumite, Hatsay Kaleb crossed the Red Sea to allegedly quell the persecution of fellow Christians by Dhu Nuwas in Najjran, todays Saudi Arabia. The real factor for the conquest could be a desire by the emperor to control the maritime route. If it was the alleged persecution of Christians, his vassal the commander Abraha would not stay there for forty years, establish the city of Sana’a, currently the Yemeni capital. Records from both sides of the Red Sea also mention how Abraha was on his way to Mecca to destroy the Ka’ba but died in the Tihama (lowlands) of Yemen, Experts believe it was Falciparum malaria.
What has this historical context or precedent got to do with the current conflict in Tigrai? It has everything to do with ‘who controls’ the Red sea route. After all, there is an independent country called Eritrea and the entire red sea coast belongs to Eritrea. Here lies the nexus of the problem. In the name of peace making the rogue state of Eritrea rented Asab port for the UAE to build a military base. This was soon after UAE contractor DP World to modernize the Djibouti port failed. The Expansionist policies of the UAE is at the helm of the conflict in Yemen. The UAE went one step farther when it occupied the Yemeni island of Socotra that led to a public outcry. More evidences can be said about the ill-conceived strategy of the UAE. For the war in Tigrai, the relevance is the connection of the so called peace making between Eritrea and Ethiopia with Saudi Arabia and UAE as sponsors.
The Ethiopian and Eritrean leaders got the ‘Nobel Prize’ from the Saudi king long before the Nobel committee in Norway even short listed Abiy Ahmed to be a candidate for peace prize in 2019. What is even more intriguing and paradoxical is the African Union whose seat is in Addis Ababa downgraded to be a bystander in fact an onlooker on such a huge agenda of war and Peace in Africa.
The driving force for the drama of peace making turned to an all-out war between Tigrai and the Government in Addis Ababa with Eritrean troops playing a decisive role. If the cause of the war was not to do with who controls both sides of the Red Sea why did UAE send drones to support the Abiy and Isaias joint war to eliminate the people of Tigrai?
What stake for Jeffrey Feltman’s presentation and interview at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) anyway? Again this question must be put into context. The US foreign policy is guided by its national security and economic interests. The content of the speech hinged on three important issues:
- A call for the parties at war to put down their arms and go for a negotiated settlement. Ambassador Feltman suggested the designated African Union envoy, former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, be accepted to make it look African solution for an African problem. He was candid, however, that the US would be engaged from behind.
2. He suggested that the TPLF withdraws from Amhara and Afar states but failed to add that the Amhara militia withdraw from western Tigrai. Ambassador Feltman suggested the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Ethiopia too.
3. Feltman expressed concern for the devastating famine in Tigrai due to the siege but failed to come boldly to condemn it as genocide even when he was pressed to respond to the mass murder and mass rape by USIP.
It was clear that by using words such as concern, humanitarian disaster, atrocities and the like, he replied to the facilitator of USIP that he looked forward to see the upcoming report of the UN Human Rights commission. The UN Human Rights Report, Ambassador Feltman admitted was concocted by the government sponsored Ethiopian Human Rights Council, making it a report dead on arrival anyway. How can a report authored by the very perpetuators of the genocide be a credible report?
Feltman has misunderstand and failed to dig into the problem facing Ethiopia. It is one thing to promote and guard the national security interests of the US which is a plausible and an accepted policy of all nations. But it is altogether different to go to the bottom of issues and find a lasting peace for the people concerned. We do not subscribe to solutions witnessed in the Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. It matters little whether it is an African or an American solution in so far as it is not a durable peace. What is needed is a lasting, sustainable peace for all peoples concerned.
The Government of Tigrai was driven out from power by force not only from within Ethiopia but by an axis of forces: the invited and paid mercenaries of Eritrea, the drones and dollars of UAE, and troops from Somalia. Countries like Turkey and others are also selling drones and other military wares to the regime in Addis Ababa. Why did Ambassador Feltman choose to skip these facts? Why did he fail to see the asymmetry in alignment of forces in the war? How can we make peace where many hands have stains of blood? How can we stop marching to Addis Ababa when the people who keep the keys to our pensions and other savings are there? The people who excommunicated Tigrai from the world for 12 months are in Addis Ababa. Ambassador Feltman, come what may, the people who denied Tigrai medicines are there so we will breach the siege. After all, Addis Ababa is our capital city, who can stop us from marching to the capital?
3 November 2021