The looming H.R.6600 bill has enormous consequences for Ethiopia. If passed, it will execute the Biden Administration’s foreign policy interests towards Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. Biden’s government agencies and their leaders have released statements with foreign policy positions via social media during the 17 month long conflict in Ethiopia. The data quoted in these social media posts resemble TPLF’s major talking points. In addition, the word “Tigray” has been amplified more frequently by the Biden Administration than the words “Amhara” and “Afar”.
A total of 696 official Tweets mentioning Ethiopia were made by the State Department, State Department’s Spokesperson Ned Price; Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, the United State Agency for International Development (USAID), Samantha Power, administrator of USAID, and the US Embassy in Ethiopia. The top two topics from these Tweets are: 1) Ethiopia Tigray Region and 2) Unhindered Humanitarian Access to Tigray. These statements reflect the main priorities of the US organizations and officials when it comes to the conflict in Ethiopia.
US agencies rarely called out the TPLF forces by name while they continued their aggression and invasion of Amhara and Afar regions - hundreds of kilometers away from Tigray border. Investigation of Tweets from six organizations and leaders that shape US foreign policy between Nov 2020 - March 2022, revealed the word “Tigray'' was mentioned in 71% of the Tweets even though the war was fought in Amhara and Afar regions for the past 9 months.
Thus, the priorities of US foreign policy agencies echo concerns for Tigray and exclude those who are suffering in the other two regions. This raises the question: why did the priorities of these statements not shift to reflect the ongoing conflict that is taking place in Amhara and Afar regions?
The data is highly indicative of the Biden Administration’s long standing interest to continue its alliances with TPLF leadership and support their push to return to power. If H.R.6600 passes, it is likely to pave the way for Biden’s foreign policy which has minimized the damage to war torn regions of Amhara and Afar while elevating the position of TPLF controlled Tigray.
For example, Biden’s Administration high priority demand for “unhindered humanitarian access” often did not reflect the issues on the ground. In June 2021, the Ethiopian government declared a unilateral ceasefire, however, the TPLF (Tigrayan forces) launched new attacks on several fronts in Abala, Afar, blocking roads which would lead vehicles carrying humanitarian assistance, such as food and medical supplies, to Tigray.
Additionally, more than 90 percent of the trucks that delivered humanitarian aid did not return for another round of delivery and were instead observed to transport TPLF’s fighters. Yet, the Biden Administration focussed coordinated and relentless pressure to shame [Ref Politico] and severely damage Ethiopia’s first elected government rather than the TPLF forces who instigating new conflicts and diverting resources.
How the H.R.6600 is in alignment with TPLF Interests
During Ethiopia’s current challenging time, it’s clear that there are numerous internal and external actors actively engaged in undermining Ethiopia’s and its people's freedom. The looming H.R.6600 bill is one example of an attempt to infringe on Ethiopia’s right to self-governance.
The early strategy of Biden Administration seemed to be in support of the TPLF military agenda, but their multi-lateral pressure to isolate Ethiopia was not effective. Now, a new approach has been crafted by TPLF lobbyists with the support of members of Congress to sanction Ethiopia and pressure the Ethiopian government to bring TPLF back into the political picture. If passed, H.R.6600 is likely to have a severe impact on all Ethiopians and exacerbate an already dire situation in Amhara and Afar regions.
One of the targets of this bill is to weaken the military capacity of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF), regional special forces and militia by imposing embargo on military sales and stopping international assistance. The weakening of these forces will empower the insurrectionist TPLF and their terrorist allies OLF-Oneg Shene to continue their belligerence and violence against civilians. Additionally, a weakened ENDF would give TPLF the opportunity to launch new attacks on Welkait and Humera regions in an attempt to open a corridor through Sudan.
This approach has already been supported by the Biden Administration's demands for ENDF to withdraw from west of Tigray, the disputed lands of Welkait and Humera, and give “humanitarian access”. Such action has the potential to grant TPLF access to more weapons from Sudan, which will allow them to continue the war on Amhara and Afar regions in an attempt to gain political power.
The second purpose of the TPLF sponsored H.R.6600 bill is to continue damaging the Ethiopian economy, which ultimately hurts the war torn regions of Amhara and Afar that need rehabilitation. According to the Ministry of Health (MoH), Ministry of Education (MoE) and Ethiopian Human Right Council (EHRC), 2,409 health facilities, 4210 schools and thousands of infrastructures were intentionally looted or destroyed by the TPLF in Amhara and Afar regions by the Tigrayn forces.
As of now, millions of Ethiopians in the Amhara and Afar regions do not have access to healthcare, and as a result patients, including newborn babies, are dying from treatable health complications. Any sanction listed in H.R.6600 that has a potential to impact the Ethiopian economy will have a direct consequence on the rehabilitation process of these devastated regions.
The one sided approach of the Biden Administration has made it clear which grievances they intend to address in Ethiopia’s conflict. If H.R.6600 passes to become law, the Biden Administration will be able to wield its control over Ethiopia by threatening sanctions that will last for 10 years. Addressing TPLF needs and grievances will be prioritized at the expense of Ethiopia’s self-governance, peace and freedom.