The US Politics of Global Conflicts – Tigray War in Ethiopia

Current Conflict in the World where the US is Involved Through its Foreign Policy – Tigray War in Ethiopia

A current conflict in the world where the US is involved through its foreign policy is the Tigray War in Ethiopia. The Tigray War erupted in November 2020 when the Ethiopian Prime Minister sent troops to disarm and detain leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the regional ruling party. The move was a response to the TPLF attacks on the Ethiopian army camps. The Eritrean troops later joined the war by teaming up with the Ethiopian military (Walsh & Dahir, 2020).

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Since the war broke, thousands of people have died, and approximately 2 million individuals, about a third of Tigray’s population, have fled their homes. The war has led to looting, assaults in refugee camps, sexual violence, among other human rights abuses (Gavin, 2021). Thus, the war has led to humanitarian crises as well as fears of regional instability. This has led the US  to become involved through foreign policy.

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Role of the Legislative Branch in the Tigray War

            On 19 May 2021, the US Senate unanimously passed a Resolution calling for the Ethiopian government, the TPLF, and other belligerents in the Tigray war to cease all hostilities, allow humanitarian access, protect human rights, and cooperate with the ongoing independent investigations of alleged atrocities. Notably, the US and Ethiopia share more than a century of robust democratic relations. However, given the suspected atrocities stemming from the conflict, the US felt obliged to participate. Accordingly, the Senate resolved that it calls on the immediate cessation of hostilities in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, condemns all violence against civilians in the strongest terms, and call on the Eritrean government to fully withdraw its military forces from Ethiopia (“S.Res.97 – 117th Congress (2021-2022)”, 2021).

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            The Resolution also expresses that the Senate condemns any human rights violation, rape, murder, looting, and other crimes committed by the Ethiopian army and the Eritrean military in the Tigray region. Additionally, the Resolution asserted that the Senate disapproves of escalating political tensions between the Ethiopian government and the TPLF into armed conflict. The Resolution also calls on the immediate restoration of electricity, telephone, internet, and banking services throughout the Tigray region, where the Government of Ethiopia has restricted communications. Moreover, the Resolution calls on the Ethiopian government to take tangible steps geared towards enhancing humanitarian access, pursue accountability for human rights violations, and seek progress on other critical issues related to the Tigray conflict to facilitate stability (“S.Res.97 – 117th Congress (2021-2022)”, 2021).

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            The Resolution also calls on the Ethiopian government to ensure that apprehensions of TPLF members are conducted with the least possible use of force and the individual rights of those detained as per Ethiopian and International law are fully respected. It also calls on the immediate release of opposition leaders, supporters, and activists arrested due to their political activities and views. Furthermore, the Resolution emphasizes the importance of the Government of Ethiopia to respect the rights of all Ethiopians to freely express themselves and get politically involved, without discrimination based on ideology, ethnicity, or political affiliation. Lastly, the Resolution calls on the Government of Ethiopia to convene a nationwide process of national dialogue and reconciliation aimed to chart a democratic and peaceful path for the country (“S.Res.97 – 117th Congress (2021-2022)”, 2021).

            Given the above-highlighted involvement of the US legislative branch in the Tigray conflict, it should be more involved than it has been. One month since the passing of the Resolution, the war is still ongoing, which hints at the need to implement a policy that will facilitate the active involvement of the US in the war—for instance, sending representatives to reconcile the conflicting parties.

Role of the Executive Branch in the Tigray War

            The Executive branch has repeatedly called for the withdrawal of Ethiopian and Eritrean forces from the Tigray region. In a statement released on 15 May 2021, the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, the Executive branch, calls on the Governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea to comply with obligations per international humanitarian law by ceasing the hostilities, protecting civilians, and allowing relief to those suffering in the Tigray region (“Continuing Atrocities and Denial of Humanitarian Access in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region – United States Department of State”, 2021). Additionally, the US President, Joe Biden, has called for an end to the human rights violations which have been going on since the war broke seven months ago now (“Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict: Biden demands ceasefire and end to abuses”, 2021). The President also imposed visa restrictions on Ethiopian and Eritrean officials as well as other individuals accused of atrocities. The Executive branch has also announced a wide range of restrictions on security and economic assistance to Ethiopia. Moreover, the Executive branch has confirmed that the US will continue to dispatch humanitarian aid to the Tigray region in areas such as food, health, and education (Elbagir & Robertson, 2021). The Executive branch can be more involved in the conflict through direct communication with the Ethiopian government to urge it to cease violating human rights and convincing it to take conflict resolution measures to resolve the dispute.

United Nations and Other International Organizations Involvement in the Tigray War

            The United Nations (UN) has called for the Eritrean troops to immediately leave Tigray and urge investigations into the situation. The UN also called out human rights violations, including sexual violence and extrajudicial killings. The UN has also announced a probe carried out jointly by the High Commissioner’s Office (OHCHR) and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) as part of the much-needed accountability process for the Tigray conflict victims. The agreement by OHCHR and the EHRC to collaborate seeks to advance and strengthen protection and respect of human rights and ensure accountability for infringement of human rights law committed by all parties since the war broke.

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Another organization involved in the conflict is the World Food Programme (WFP) which is providing emergency food assistance to the affected civilians across Tigray(“Probe announced into alleged Tigray rights violations: UN rights office”, 2021). Notably, these organizations have not influenced US foreign policy. The US took its stand long before the UN and the other mentioned organizations were involved in the war. However, it is worth acknowledging that the UN and the identified international organizations’ involvement in the Tigray situation has been crucial. Besides exerting pressure on the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments to respect human rights, they have also provided relief to the victims of the war.

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