When Mike Pompeo, Secretary of the U.S. State Department, and Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed visited Sudan on the same day three days ago, many expected that they would hold a meeting. The expectation emanates from the historical Ethio-American relationship, the strong alliance that exists between the two countries, and the ongoing tripartite negotiations among Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia which the U.S. mediated and wants to see completed.
Among those who expected the meeting between Mike Pompeo and Abiy Ahmed, there were some who questioned the protocol, a meeting between a prime minister (head of a government) and Secretary of State in a foreign country.
Now whether or not a meeting between the prime minister and Secretary of State occurred is unclear as there is no official statement or media report on the subject. This again led some to believe that there was no any meeting between the two leaders. However, others believe that there was indeed a meeting, but they argue that the leaders disagreed. For this, they point to a picture showing the prime minister looking embarrassed and in deep thought.
A day after the Sudan visit by Pompeo and Abiy, the Foreign Policy reported that the United States halted $130 millions in aid for Ethiopia. The reason, according to the FP report, is due to Ethiopia’s refusal to sign the GERD agreement.
However, the claim that the U.S. halted its foreign aid due to the GERD issue alone doesn’t hold water. Rather, the U.S. action has to do with the instability in Ethiopia which it fears may threaten its national interest in the region. To understand this, it’s important to look at the following context:
A few weeks ago, 20 U.S. lawmakers wrote a letter to Mike Pompeo asking him to assess the political situation and the human rights violations in Ethiopia and report back to them. A few days ago, two Minnesota congressional delegates wrote a letter to the U.S. State Department voicing their concerns about what’s going on in Ethiopia in general and the condition of two Minnesotans, Jawar Mohammed and Misha Chiri, who are detained by the regime in particular. The expected meetings between Mike Pompeo and Abiy Ahmed in Sudan “didn’t happen.” Yesterday, the U.S. halted its support for Ethiopia. Months ago, President Donald Trump claimed that the Nobel Peace Prize Abiy received should have been given to him.
Having this context in mind, now we can answer the question, why the United States halted its aid to Ethiopia? In order to answer this question, it’s important to answer another question: Why does the United States support counties like Ethiopia in the first place?
The United States support countries like Ethiopia for its own NATIONAL INTEREST! To this end, it follows three approaches:
- It supports countries which help achieve its national interest.
- It withdraws its support from counties that don’t support its national interest.
- It punishes countries that work against its national interest.
How does the United States support its allies?
The United States support its allies in three major ways: economically, diplomatically, and politically. Economic support includes granting foreign aids (loans, humanitarian aids); allowing tariff-free export to U.S.A; facilitating loans by multinational financial organizations such as the World Bank, IMF, etc; encouraging its businesses to invest in those countries; providing security aid (e.g., providing weapons and training to military forces, etc.).
Diplomatic Support includes supporting countries in international arena such as letting them into membership of a coalition; mediating conflicts, e.g., GERD, border disputes; mediating major international issues (e.g., Isreal and United Arab Emirates).
Political support includes supporting a ruling party of a friendly country. The United States gave political support to TPLF, Abiy Ahmed, and King Haile Selassie. But it did not give political support to the Dergue regime.
What are the United States national interest in the international area? They are many but the major ones are economic (trade, investment), diplomatic, security (e.g., war on terrorism, drug trafficking), and geopolitics (competition among major countries such as Rissia and China). The United States needs Ethiopia for two of the above mentioned reasons: security and geopolitics.
The United States DOES NOT LIKE A DICTATOR WHO CANNOT STABILIZE HIS OWN COUNTRY. For the United States, a country has to be stable to help in its national interest. Ethiopia is failing in this regard! How?
Abiy failed to understand what the whole world knows! That is, the key to stability in Ethiopia is Oromia and Oromo politics. The PROBLEM with Abiy is that he not only tried to SIDELINE the Oromo people who brought him to power, he followed ANTI-OROMO POLICIES and worked to reincarnate old feudal system. This put him into a direct collision with the Oromo people. Things are falling apart!
Ethiopia’s role as anchor of peace and stability in the region is also diminishing. The government of Abiy Ahmed has weakened IGAD. Due to GERD and border issues, Ethiopia’s relations with Sudan is an all-time low. Its relations with Kenya has also become tense because of a competition for influence in Somalia. Djibouti cannot be Ethiopia’s powerful reliable partner, and Eritrea is not perceived to play a positive role in the region.
Ethiopia is not helping the United States in its geopolitical competition with China as well. Despite the United States’ push to rethink about its relations with China, Ethiopia continue to rely on China on many things. China is enticing it with different support with regards the COVID-19 pandemic. Chinese support for other African countries in this area also opened a new market for the Ethiopian Airlines, which is now the only major source of its foreign currency.
In addition to the above reasons, the United States does not like a country that detaines its citizens especially if it causes noises back home. Now, we are hearing those noises on the streets of the United States. Abiy doesn’t seem to understand all these problems.
The United States will continue to pressure Abiy Ahmed to release political prisoners and bring stability to country. If he doesn’t listen and continue to crackdown on politicians and put the region’s stability at risk, it will turn its back on him like it did to TPLF two years ago! It will sure look for an alternative to him!