‘Hands Off Ethiopia’ Protests in Washington DC, Addis Ababa Urge No US Interference in Civil War
21:05 GMT 08.11.2021 (Updated: 19:56 GMT 18.10.2022)
Protests in Washington, DC on Monday and Addis Ababa over the weekend urged the US not to get further involved in Ethiopia’s civil war. As the Biden administration makes the case for increasing pressure on the government for a solution, rebel Tigrayan forces and their new Oromo allies are threatening to march on the capital.
Organizers of a large pro-government rally outside the White House on Monday told Sputnik they expected up to 10,000 to attend. Waving Ethiopian national flags, they carried signs that read “No More,” “USA Hands off Ethiopia,” “TPLF is a Killer” and “CNN, Stop Assisting the Terrorist TPLF.”
“As you can see people are very upset and frustrated about Biden’s foreign policy on Ethiopia, so we are here to protest and to tell the Biden Administration to stop forcing Ethiopian government and sit down and negotiate and we want them to support the current democratically-elected Prime Minister,” Gennet Negussie, one of the DC rally organizers and an advocate for GLEAN (Global Ethiopian Advocacy Nexus), told Sputnik on Monday.
The rally followed a weekend in which pro-Tigray demonstrators also held a demonstration in Washington, DC, and massive rallies in Addis Ababa expressed their support for the Ethiopian government.
On Saturday, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) announced it had joined
with eight other regional groups to form a United Front of Ethiopian Federalist and Confederalist Forces (FEFCF), with the group saying they aimed to overthrow Ethiopia President Abiy Ahmed and form a transitional government "by force or by negotiation.”
The news came as TPLF forces advanced southward out of the northern Tigray region state and linked up with the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) to seize several towns about 250 miles from Addis Ababa. Last Tuesday, Abiy declared a six-month state of emergency and called on citizens to rally in defense of the capital.
“We don’t recognize that,” Negussie said of the TPLF-led united front.
“We are surprised that the US would be supporting when over 40 million people voted for the current Prime Minister. The majority of the Ethiopian people support him. The diaspora supports him,” she said. “It is very odd. It seems like the US government is trying to overthrow the democratically-elected government and create a transitional government … The US should support the Ethiopian government to bring these terrorist groups to justice and that’s the only time they can end conflict. We cannot negotiate with any terrorist group.”
In 1991, the TPLF led a similar alliance of liberation groups from Ethiopia’s many nationalities, called the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), in a movement that forced the Marxist Derg military government to relinquish power. The TPLF dominated Ethiopian politics for the three decades that followed, ceding few democratic concessions while working to keep the country’s many ethnic groups off-balance in a federal system run by TPLF-dominated parties.
After Abiy rode a wave of discontent by the non-Tigrayan ethnic groups to become president in 2018, he attempted to change this setup by merging the various ethnic parties into a single Prosperity Party. The TLPF objected to this arrangement and rejected it as illegal, and in September 2020, held regional elections in Tigray that Abiy’s government decried as illegal. By late November of that year, a shooting war had erupted in Tigray and neighboring Eritrea had entered the conflict on the side of Abiy.
While the Tigray capital of Mek’ele was captured early in the conflict, TPLF guerrilla forces in rural areas launched a counteroffensive, leading to their invasion in September of Afar and Amhara states that stand between Tigray and the capital.
Amid a massive flight of refugees from the region and the onset of famine, a humanitarian crisis has taken shape and the US has called on Abiy’s government to end the conflict, threatening to use sanctions to coerce them into peace with the TPLF.
Speaking to CNN on Tuesday, US Agency for International Development (USAID) chief Samantha Power said
“fundamentally, responsibility lies with the government and with the rebels who are now advancing out of Tigray and moving toward Addis Ababa.” However, she added that Ethiopia is “an incredibly important partner on the continent” with whom the US wants a strong relationship.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported on Thursday
that hundreds of aid trucks are stuck in Semera, the capital of Afar, unable to proceed to Mek’ele due to airstrikes. The UN has said the TPLF is the primary cause, as does the government, while the TPLF blames the government.
A bipartisan group of US senators last week also introduced a bill
to sanction anyone whose dealings with the Ethiopian, Eritrean, or Tigray governments “undermines efforts with respect to a peaceful negotiated settlement to end hostilities in northern Ethiopia” and to block loans from financial institutions to Ethiopia and Eritrea. It follows a September executive order
by Biden ordering the Treasury to explore similar actions.
Mekdes Tefera told Sputnik at the rally on Monday that she had come to oppose US sanctions.
“We are here to show that we are in support of the government that we have and we don’t want the US interference,” she said. “We want them to stop sanctioning the country when we have the government that has already been selected, that the people chose.”
Dagm Kabeta, an Ethiopian national who has been living in the United States for 15 years, told Sputnik that people have also come to protest the false coverage by the major US media outlets of the Ethiopian crisis.
“The reason why we came here is because the United States and the US media have been attacking Ethiopia to divide the nation,” Kabeta said. “That’s why we came here to tell CNN and others to stop giving false information to the world … What we want right now is to be the voice of the Ethiopian people to say that we have our own voted government, we don’t want other people to be involved in this situation.”