Why does the West want to dismiss an already existing credible international investigation regarding the current conflict in Ethiopia and have their own appointed investigators? This begs the questions of the US and UN priorities and policy towards Ethiopia.
They have amplified and echoed concerns for Tigray and TPLF’s talking points. They have turned a blind eye to insurgent TPLF, who’ve instigated conflicts afflicting millions in Amhara and Afar but rather have portrayed perpetrators of the crime as victims.
A joint investigation was performed between the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the Office of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) into alleged violations of international human rights in northern Ethiopia’s conflict.
The investigation released findings covering the period from November 3, 2020, when the armed conflict began, until June 28, 2021, when the Ethiopian Government declared a unilateral ceasefire.
The declared unilateral ceasefire was rejected and labeled “a sick joke” by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) leaders and expanded the war more than 250 km outside Tigray to the Amhara and Afar regions. As a result, more than 2 million civilians were displaced, thousands of women and children were gang-raped, and thousands of schools and hospitals were destroyed.
Following several reports by Amnesty and other human rights watch groups of the atrocities committed by the TPLF in the Amhara and Afar regions, the Ethiopian government has requested the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights OHCHR to resume the joint investigation with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) for the period after June 2021. However, the High Commissioner has not responded to the request.
While several public statements from the US and UN set the need for an independent investigation of the Ethiopian conflict, the shocking radio silence and not responding timely to Ethiopia’s request to continue the OHCHR - EHRC joint effort poses a red flag.
Misguided UN Current Actions
Instead, the European Union (EU) brought forward a resolution and called for a special session meeting at the United Nations Human Right Council (UNHRC) to establish new investigators in Ethiopia. This ignores the already existing and credible OHCHR - EHRC joint team.
Many have considered this an egregious form of neocolonialism and compared it to aspects of the Berlin conference in 1884-85, where European nations gathered to partition Africa by openly discussing Europeans’ sovereignty, land, territory, and trade rights.
At this UNHRC meeting on Ethiopia, no African country voted to investigate Ethiopia; however, on December 21, 2021, the UNHRC adopted Resolution A/HRC/RES/S-33/ to appoint new investigators.
The sole purpose of the investigators is to abolish the existing joint investigation and start all over again, possibly to change the outcome, blame the Ethiopian government, and designate the atrocities as “genocide”. Such designation and possible prosecution are perhaps tools to twist the hands of the Ethiopian government to prioritize Western policy interests.
This should be viewed as part and parcel of the application of US House Resolution 6600 and Senate Resolution S3199 whereby the United States wants to impose a human rights investigation requiring accountability, unfettered access to humanitarian operations with a report to the State Department every six months with many other sanctions-related provisions.
New and Deceptive Investigators
Now let us look at the newly appointed investigators—Steven Ratner of the United States, Fatou Bensouda of the Gambia, and Betty Murungi of Kenya.
Steven Ratner began his legal career as an attorney-adviser in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the U.S. State Department. He has served as an advisor for the State Department on international law since 2009.
His appointment as an “independent investigator” would force anyone to raise eyebrows. Not only because he is from the US with a misguided foreign policy on Ethiopia’s conflict, but he has an advisory role for the same State Department that has been creating biased campaigns on Ethiopia since the beginning of the conflict.
Steven Ratner’s appointment will allow the investigation and reporting team to steer issues directly to the United States State Department and steer the directions of investigations and the outcome to advance the US foreign policy.
The US unilateral legislations are instruments to pressure the Ethiopian government, possibly to continue their effort to bring TPLF as a dominant political power in the Horn of Africa (HOA).
In both drafted bills of the US Congress, HR6600, S3199, and recent statements from the US State Department, pressure is mounting for the Ethiopian government to “cooperate with independent investigations (monitors) of credible allegations of war crime and crimes against humanity.” Such sections indicate the intentions of the US-led mission to bring what was not possible at the United Nations stage for the past 17 months.
The US and their allies have called for more than thirteen hearings in the past two years at the UNHRC, looking for an outcome to label Ethiopia with “genocide” and possibly send UN peacekeeping missions. This effort has failed due to China, Russia, and India, as permanent member states, vetoing intervention into the affairs of a sovereign UN member nation. Appointing Steven Ratner extends this long-term US interest to intervene militarily, regime change, and continue political dominance in Ethiopia and the HOA.
Fatou Bensouda is the former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC). She was notorious for targeting African leaders that are visionary toward their people. This has been obvious from her decade-long failed case on former president Laurent Gbagbo of Cote D’Ivoire and his minister. Her tenure is described as “a disaster, a shameful moment in ICC history.”
After a disputed election in 2010, Fatou Bensouda’s case on Gbagbo led to his arrest by French-supported Ouattara forces, extradition to the Hague in November 2011, and charges of four counts of crime against humanity.
After nine years in prison, the ICC dismissed the charges on the former president because insufficient evidence was presented. Fatou Bensouda appealed the court decision and kept the president in jail for another two years until finally, in 2021, the ICC court acquitted him, and he became free.
The ICC stage and their buzz words, such as crime against humanity, were used to remove an African president Laurent Gbagbo and execute regime change in Cote D’Ivoire that was in favor of the French government, and Bensouda orchestrated and drove this campaign.
Her appointment as chairperson for the Ethiopia investigation has a clear purpose, to halt those who defend Ethiopia’s sovereignty, fulfill the wishes of a TPLF by bringing them to power, and prosecute Ethiopian Defence Force (ENDF) generals, Fano and Amhara militia leaders such as Colonel Demeke Zewdu.
Betty Murungi is the former commissioner of the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation in Kenya. Her vice-chairperson appointment ended with her forced resignation from her post due to credibility questions in 2008.
Betty Murungi and her team’s misappropriation of financial resources and her admittance to the allegation provides ample information about her lack of standing for truth and common decency. Why did the UN appoint Betty Murungi, incompetent and corrupt, as an investigator in the Ethiopia conflict?
Betty’s appointment is nothing but to be a parrot for Steven and Fatou Bensouda who will serve in the interest of the US alone.
What Should We Conclude?
Instead of appointing new investigators, the original joint investigation with the OHCHR and the EHRC should be prolonged to include after June 28, 2021. These new UN investigators have a history of bias and could never be called “independent.” Appointing these new investigators would violate Article 2 of the UN Charter, which acknowledges the “sovereignty” of all member nations, including Ethiopia.
Access to Ethiopia of this new UNHRC investigation team should be categorically refused by the Government of Ethiopia. The United States and United Nations emboldening the TPLF at the expense of political interest is against the sovereignty of the duly elected government of Ethiopia. All member nations of the UN should uphold their founding principles and rally against the appointment of these new investigators.
Special Thanks to John Philpot, Dr. Richard Hooper, Asqual Teferi (EACC) and Deacon Yoseph Teferi (EACC) for discussion and reviewing this article