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Blinken in Ethiopia: Domination Lurks Behind US-Imposed Partnerships, Experts Say

© AP Photo / Tiksa NegeriU.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken departs for Niger from Bole International Airport, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Thursday, March 16, 2023
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken departs for Niger from Bole International Airport, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Thursday, March 16, 2023 - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.03.2023
Addis Ababa witnessed the arrival of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on 14 March. During the visit, he met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen.
The US secretary of state has a serious problem of conviction and confidence with the Ethiopian authorities, as Washington backed the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) in a fight against the federal government in Ethiopia's recently ended internal conflict, Dr Franklin Nyamsi, president of the African Freedom Institute and a political scientist, says in an interview with Sputnik.

"So having failed in that strategy to put the Ethiopian government down, [the US] are now using a new set of what we can call soft power, politics, methods. But for sure, the confidence between the American government and the Ethiopian government has been seriously damaged," the expert says.

Among others, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki accused Washington of supporting the TPLF in the conflict. Afwerki said the peace agreement signed in November 2022 between the two parties to the conflict was worked out "mainly" by the US which aimed to prevent the rebels' total defeat.
During the visit to Ethiopia, which began on 14 March, Blinken met with the country's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen to discuss a number of issues from different angles, including the conflict in the northern Ethiopian Tigray region.
According to Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Molly Phee, one of the goals of the trip to Ethiopia by Blinken is to "help consolidate peace". Explaining what steps the US could take to achieve the goal, Nyamsi notes that Washington has always used chaos as a parameter for order.
He recalls the examples of Somalia and Libya that are suffering turmoil as a result of US destabilization policies.
For instance, Libya also experienced a civil war during the rule of Muammar Gaddafi, where opposition forces were backed by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO), which resulted in turmoil in the country, another civil war, and terrorism spreading across the Sahel region.
Somalia has been suffering a devastating civil war since 1988 as a result of which the country became divided and was vulnerable to a terrorist threat. The US got involved in the country to fight terrorists under its Global War on Terrorism efforts in 2007. Since then, there have been numerous reports on the US forces causing casualties among Somali civilians.

"First of all, they destabilize. And second, they negotiate with a weak partner," the expert explains, adding: "And so in Ethiopia, it is certain that it is because the rebellion, the civil war, has failed to put the government down, that Mr Blinken is now trying to use soft power political methods."

The US' attempts to participate in the discussions on the internal issue of Ethiopia without a formal invitation from the sovereign government are "undoubtedly inappropriate", says Dr Teshome Tafesse Beyene, an assistant professor of Public and Development Management at Addis Ababa University, in an interview with Sputnik.
According to the expert, the US is trying to use the situation to influence the politics of Ethiopia in how it contributes to the fulfillment of "their national interest in the region". Therefore, he stresses, Blinken's visit to Ethiopia or elsewhere is aimed at serving the purposes of his country’s policy objectives. Meanwhile, the improvement of the political situation in the region can be brought about by the concerned stakeholders.
Recalling remarks made by Molly Phee before Blinken's visit, Beyene explains that her wish for peace in Ethiopia is "not bad by itself", but the way it was expressed is not diplomatic or friendly as "it echoes a kind of domineering approach with an attached conditionality". Earlier, Phee stated that to ensure peace and normalize relations with the US, Ethiopa should "break the cycle of ethnic political violence that has set the country back for so many decades". He notes that she could say it in a more diplomatic manner as now her remarks demonstrate the intention of the US to interfere in the internal affairs of the country.
Ethiopian government soldiers ride in the back of a truck on a road near Agula, north of Mekele, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia on May 8, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.02.2023
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As for the proposed investigation of alleged human rights atrocities “committed by all sides” during a two-year conflict in northern Ethiopia, the expert highlights that the resolution to undertake the investigation with financial and political support of the US "could be taken as a clear meddling".
At the same time, he emphasizes, some friendly countries, including Russia and China, voted against the resolution. Furthermore, a group of African countries called for the resolution to be rejected, saying that "the proposed independent investigation likely to worsen the situation in the country than help to build peace."

"Ethiopia repeatedly announced it was disappointed by the resolution and officially declared it would not cooperate, describing the mechanism as politically motivated, and orchestrated by the West against its national interest," he says.

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Nyamsi also contrasts the kind of partnership the US practices with African countries to Russian and Chinese ones, saying "there is a very serious difference".
He describes partnerships with Russian and China as "honest", where each party expresses openly what it expects from the other, emphasizing that "behind the American way of working with Africans, there is always the hidden project of domination, of hegemony which destroys the confidence needed in international relations today for peace and security."
For instance, a number African leaders earlier accused the US of infringing on the sovereignty of African countries, after Washington issued a bill in May last year that allowed the US to punish African countries for cooperation with Russia in certain areas.
The expert believes that despite talking about peace, security, partnership, doing business, fair meetings, the US is permanently involved in destabilization processes. He calls the methods used by the US to force African governments to negotiate on goods, commodities, natural resources, etc, "terrorist".

"Clearly, I'm not sure that will succeed with Africans today because [the] African government, African people have become very aware of the global standards made by the West," Nyamsi notes.

Elaborating on the African's perception of the recent visits by top US officials which are often described by western media as part of Biden's push to counter Russian and Chinese influence in Africa, the political scientist highlights the "historical perception" of partnership with Russia and China on the continent. "When African people were fighting against colonialism, when they were fighting to recover the sovereignty of their states, they were helped by the former Soviet Union, they were helped by the People's Republic of China," he explains.
Building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation in Moscow - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.03.2023
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In contrast to Moscow and Beijing, the expert says, western countries were the colonizers of Africa; thus, he continues, they do not have that positive background in the African mind.
He mentions that, unlike the West, Russia and China do not meddle in African countries' internal affairs.

"They respect the African dignity as people, as human beings, as equals. And this is absolutely different from the American and western perceptions of Africa. The American and the western perception of Africa is something for Africans to dedide," Nyamsi explains.

For instance, in January this year, Foreign Minister of the People's Republic of China (PRC) Qin Gang, said during a meeting with his Ethiopian counterpart Demeke Mekonnin, China was ready to provide support for the people of Ethiopia who find themselves in a difficult situation after armed clashes.

"China has already provided Ethiopia with a large amount of material humanitarian aid in the form of food and vaccines. We have helped alleviate the life difficulties of the population, which was negatively affected by armed clashes," Qin Gang said. "China will continue to act in the same manner."

Talking about the Chinese foreign minister's visit to the continent, Beyene calls it "a very good showcase of the seriousness of Chinese government to strengthen its all-round partnership with Africa."
Russia, in turn, during the eighth meeting of the Russian-Ethiopian Intergovernmental Commission for Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation and Trade in December 2022, agreed with Ethiopia in stepping up cooperation by creating new conditions to promote investment and development, as reported by the Russian Federal Agency for Mineral Resources (Rosnedra).
Comparing the principles of Russian and Chinese foreign policies with those of the US, Nyamsi draws attention to the destructive impact of Washington's sanctioning methods. Last year, the Biden administration suspended preferential access of Ethiopian goods to the United States' market under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, dealing a major blow to the country’s textile industry.
"African people cannot accept a relationship of punishment or sanctions where we need partnership, where we need development, where we need the respect of our sovereignty and equality," the expert underlines.
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He says Washington needs to "begin that small exercise, which is to try to understand why people are not accepting that unipolar world, that hegemonic world, that one-track-mind world."

"The most important part of the world, economically, politically is against the hegemony of only one power, only one country, and all the others," Nyamsi notes, concluding: "We need sovereignty, acknowledgement, true peace and true justice, not hegemony."

Like Nyamsi, Eugene Puryear, host of the Punch Out podcast on Breakthrough News and author of the book 'Shackled in Shame: Mass Incarceration in Capitalist America', believes "the US is really putting on a full court diplomatic press on the African continent."
He says many African countries tend to deviate from the West-imposed order, which is clearly seen in the context of the UN resolutions on Russia's special military operation, where a number of African nations "have been hesitant to take diplomatic action".
For instance, he says, one need only look at Eritrea, which "has certainly been one of those countries", or South Africa which has held naval drills with Russia and China.
In February this year, South Africa hosted its second trilateral naval drills with Russia and China, which were criticized by some Western officials such as David Feldmann, spokesman for the US Embassy in South Africa, and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who expressed their concerns. Moreover, a former advisor to the White House called such exercises "not acceptable".
According to Beyene, the joint military exercise "was one of the factors that upset the West". In general, he notes, these recent visits of officials of the US, China and Russia to Africa indicate their interest "to put the stronghold in the continent" with the aim of expanding their partnership with African nations. He underscores that "the great deal of rivalry is going on between the US in one side and Russia and China in the other."
Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, second right, with Chinese naval officers attend the Armed Forces Day in Richards Bay, South Africa, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023 - Sputnik International, 1920, 22.02.2023
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"When you look at the most recent national security strategy of the Biden administration, they're stressing that the most important factor is for the US to maintain global leadership, to be able to shape the future global environment, so to keep going with a system where the US makes the rules and everyone else is forced to follow," Puryear states.

Furthermore, in Puryear's opinion, certain African nations "are willing to act very much against the grain when expected to be subservient", particularly such places as Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea, where huge mass protest movements have led to governments being overturned.

"We have seen [...] a willingness to strike out more boldly and work with countries such as Russia around security cooperation, Iran, around the economy, I mean, everyone's working with China, so that's also where they're looking for more multipolarity," the expert concludes.

Over the past few years, Burkina Faso and Mali, where their former colonial ruler, France, maintained its military presence since 2014, forced French troops to withdraw.
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