9 June 2021
To: H.E Josep Borrell Fontelles, EU VP and HR for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Re: EU needs to re-examine its policy towards the conflict in Ethiopia.
We, Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia residing in Europe, have been imploring the various branches of the European Union (EU) to adjust their stance vis-à-vis the situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia according to verifiable facts on the ground. It is baffling to us why the EU and some member states remained in the same intransigent attitude towards Ethiopia ever since the conflict started in early November 2020.
It was evident that the conflict in Tigray was triggered by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), an ethno-nationalist group that categorically rejected repeated attempts of mediators to peacefully resolve its political differences with the federal government. The aim seems to be regaining grips on political power by destroying the country’s biggest army division stationed in the region. This treasonous act was in the making ever since the group was forced out of its almost 30 years of authoritarian rule by popular uprising.
The TPLF instigated the November attack on the national army after careful planning including the severing of communication lines. Then, the soldiers were divided into Tigrayans and all others, and the later were massacred in their sleeps by their Tigrayan comrade-in-arms. In committing these crimes, the now fugitive leaders of the TPLF violated everything in the rule books including the ethical, religious, cultural and social norms of Ethiopian society.
However, spurred on by some unscrupulous media, the West showed a misplaced sympathy for the TPLF leaders rather than the people of Tigray and Ethiopia as a whole. In what appears to an orchestrated move, international media headlines were interested in condensing the long and complex background of the conflict into a simple narrative in which the person of the Prime Minister was waging a war against his own people, which is not the case on the ground. The government of Ethiopia had no choice but to conduct a law-enforcement operation in order to protect the country from the internal insurrection as would any nation in the world worthy of the name.
The policy that was developed in Brussels completely disregarded the genesis of the conflict as well as the aims and the conduct of the adversaries. It blames and ostracizes the federal government and demands it to fulfil an ever-increasing list of obligations while whitewashing and even legitimising the atrocities committed by the TPLF. As a result, Ethiopia is at a trying moment – tracking the fugitive leaders of a terrorist organization, providing the bulk of aid that sustains millions of civilians affected by the conflict and also organizing a democratic national election. On top of all of these, that it has come under unfair and undue pressure by regional and international players which is becoming unbearable.
In particular, the punitive policy line being pursued by the EU, following the cue from the USA, risks to push Ethiopia into a precipice with a real possibility of destabilization of the whole Horn of Africa with consequences for EU’s interests, including a migration crisis. It has already emboldened the TPLF, which now assumes that it can act with impunity following the tacit support from a network of individuals in the West that it built during its control of the Ethiopian state power. The organization is recruiting child soldiers, ambushing and looting aid supplies and kidnapping or assassinating local administrators, aid agency personnel and volunteers; in short, justifying its official designation as a terrorist organization.
Surprisingly, the EU seems to be misled by the activism of some groups and the exaggerated, decontextualized or fabricated news stories by pro-TPLF entities for its consequential policy towards Ethiopia. The Union has already blocked its budgetary support making it conditional on the fulfilment of its ostentatious demands that are incongruent with the conditions on the ground and is equivalent to blackmailing a fragile country of more than 100 million people.
We believe that the EU should support Ethiopia’s efforts in stabilizing the region by, among others, investigating alleged human rights abuses and associated crimes and bringing the perpetrators to justice. In this regards, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights are already working on the process of joint investigation in the region. Furthermore, the Ethiopian Federal Attorney General has recently announced the prosecution of members of the Ethiopian National Defence Forces, demonstrating government’s commitment in serving justice.
We would like to draw the attention of the EU and all peace-loving people of the continent to the fact that the heavy-handed approach towards Ethiopia and its leaders will neither lead to a durable peace in the Horn of Africa nor help innocent civilians suffering from this conflict. The confrontation in Tigray and inter-ethnic violence in the rest of the country are already taking their toll on several millions of innocent civilians, women and children. Government capability and resources are already stretched to the limit. Thus, the multi-national pressure being concocted by the EU and some member states is certain to make the matter even worse. Such draconian, interventionist approach in a conflict context has a poor track record in influencing the behaviour of governments and in most cases worsen the prevailing situation for the population they are supposed to help.
Therefore, as concerned citizens and residents in Europe, we would like to:
- encourage an in-depth analysis and understanding of the root causes of the problem in Tigray and work in collaboration with the government of Ethiopia to bring about a lasting solution.
- call upon the EU to make sure that its decisions regarding this complex problem are anchored on sound evidence and better understanding of the situation and in light of their long-term consequences to the region and Europe itself.
- appeal for an increase in available resources to support the Ethiopian Government’s response to the humanitarian needs and the re-construction of infrastructures in Tigray region.
- urge member states to desist from dictating policy directions that are hastily developed based on selected information and designed to achieve short-term goals.
- further urge member states to support the democratization process particularly in the area of institutional capacity building as these will ultimately lead to a lasting peace and stability in the Horn of Africa, which is also in the interests of the EU.
The Defend Ethiopia Task Force in Europe Steering Group organized in Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands and The United Kingdom