Delisting Ethiopia from AGOA by US: weaponizing foreign Aid

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BY SOLOMON DIBABA

Ethiopia was one of the very first recipients of American assistance, beginning in 1951 under the administration of President Harry Truman. During the terrorist TPLF dominated EPRDF Ethiopia receives more than $3 billion a year in foreign aid. This was obvious because it was the US who assisted terrorist TPLF to assume political power in Ethiopia in 1991.

Since its inception in 1961, USAID has provided assistance to Ethiopia. The U.S.-Ethiopian relationship was first established in 1903 and remained in good standing until the Italian occupation in 1935. After WWII, Ethiopia and the US re-established their relationship, and in 1951 signed a treaty of amity and economic relations.

The late Emperor Haile Selassie and Franklin Delano Roosevelt developed an amicable relationship over the latter’s opposition to British imposition. The emperor was eager to “develop relations with the U.S. because he believed that the U.S. had no colonial aspirations” in Ethiopia. Consequently, on May 15, 1952, Ethiopia signed a Point Four Technical Aid Agreement and the U.S. commenced its activities in Ethiopia under the directorship of Herman Kleine.

Furthermore, the US was attracted to Ethiopia due to its size and geo-strategic locations and Ethiopia’s position as one of the founder of the former OAU and now AU. The American Point Four Program focused on technical assistance in agriculture, public health and education.

The US aid package for Ethiopia focused on three major areas including relief food aid, support for Ethiopia’s rural development programs through partners and direct support to the government of Ethiopia.

The US supported the lifesaving efforts of the Ethiopian Government 1973-1974 drought which was repeated in the 1984-1985 period in which drought induced food shortage took the lives of millions of Ethiopian across the world. The US famine relief program of those days was supported by the relief and rehabilitation programs mostly carried out by US and UK based international NGOs in the areas of environmental rehabilitation and agricultural development based at community levels.

USAID programs in Ethiopia restarted in 1993 two years after the terrorist organization took power in Ethiopia. During the Derge period, the US continued providing relief and rehabilitation assistance through donations to US Non-Governmental organizations but further US development assistance was sanctioned as the US was at loggerheads with the Derge government which claimed to be a socialist.

 Prior to 1993, legislative sanctions, including Section 518 of Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 1991, the “Brooke Amendment,” were in place during the former regime. This clearly indicates that the US used development aid as a tool for meeting its political objectives, and no so much to promote a sustainable development for Ethiopia.

 After 1993, development aid focused on  support for the reconstruction of basic education facilities, importation of emergency pharmaceuticals, transportation equipment for the private sector, assistance in the prevention and control of AIDS through the PERFAR programs, support for democracy and governance initiatives; training and technical assistance to advance economic reform, privatization of the fertilizer distribution system and the importation of industrial raw materials will be provided with private, voluntary and NGOs assistance. AID will continue its relief program through assistance to displaced persons, including demobilized soldiers,

As stated above, the US siphoned to Ethiopia an average of 3 billion USD in direct federal assistance because it, from the outset, considered the terrorist TPLF dominated government as a trusted partner.

Despite the violations of human rights and untold atrocities it has been conducting on citizens; and in spite of the fact that terrorist TPLF has subjected citizens across the country over 27 years of its iron-fist rule, the US which claimed to be the bulwark of democracy and human rights never condemned this terrorist organization on the crimes it has been waging on ordinary Ethiopians in the country.

Whatever form it may take, foreign aid was used by the US to keep Ethiopia under its sphere of political and economic interest. US aid has never helped to pull Ethiopia from the vicious circle of poverty because it was never intended to support Ethiopia to be self-sufficient in every sphere of economic development.

The US delisted Ethiopia, Guinea and Mauritania from the privileges of  using AGOA with total disregard to the economic needs of the three counties which used to enjoy the duty free export of basic commodities to the US. The US President Joseph Biden put the lives of 2 million Ethiopians at risk, most of whom are women and girls, who have a lot of dependents from their extended family.

Besides, the measure is taken at the pretext of unproved violations of human rights on Ethiopia. It was also deliberately intended to weaken the government of Ethiopia which refused to comply with the dictates of the US government. This clearly indicates that US aid programs in Ethiopia and across the less developed countries is meant to enforce its political and economic neo-colonial polices

Ethiopia was indeed well aware of the measures that the US could take in weakening Ethiopia’s economic reform programs. The country started a massive dry land irrigation program to produce wheat and edible oil in the national import substitution program and cost recovery schemes to ensure national self-sufficiency in basic food items and also gain foreign currency from these agricultural commodities.

Although Ethiopia pursues win-win foreign relations and diplomatic moves particularly with the neighboring countries and other countries across the world, the US which wanted to exploit the geo-strategic location of Ethiopia for its dominance in the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea chose to officially cooperate with terrorist TPLF which has already conducted untold level of human rights violations and destruction of the economic basis of the Amhara and Afar regions.

The US president inked the decision to cancel Ethiopia from AGOA on the pretext of violations of human rights in the country, keeping a total blind eye to the violations of human rights by terrorist TPLF when it ruled Ethiopia under the umbrella of EPRDF for 27 years; and again, over the last 13 months on the war it waged on the people of Ethiopia. The US is well aware of this and did not lack knowledge or evidence. It chose to punish those ordinary citizens of Ethiopia who endured untold atrocities by the terrorist TPLF, culprit, in violation of the basic democratic values and norms enshrined in the US constitution.

Incidentally, the People’s Republic of China which has long years of economic and cultural relations with Ethiopia and Africa came up with a huge program which would serve as an alternative to AGOA.

As AGOA is to phase out in 2025, China which has made significant investments in Ethiopia, pledged to set aside 300 billion USD in total imports from Africa over the next three years and invest about $10 billion dollars.

Although the Chines investment is very useful in the short run, if they wish to pursue their own economic development by using their own resources, African countries need to accelerate economic cooperation programs like COMESA and the African Continental Free Trade Area as a sustainable option for a meaningful economic development in Africa. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is already spearheading efforts underway in Africa by consulting with a number of African leaders in his shuttle diplomacy on African economic cooperation and self-reliance.

The US has created a big rift in its relations with Ethiopia basing itself on a totally wrong foreign policy on Ethiopia which is expected to be her key partner on the Horn of Africa. Unless the US shifts from her carrots and stick policy on Ethiopia, US diplomatic relations with the whole Africa could be at risk.  The bell has toll in the #NoMore global campaign.