By: Achamyeleh Tamiru (Independent writer, Commentator (Ethiopian Affairs), and Economic Researcher and Analyst)
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been repeatedly calling for the withdraw of Amhara forces from their historic provinces of Wolkait, Tegede, Telemt and Humera and the ceding of these territories to TPLF. In his most recent statement, Blinken has even demanded Ethiopia’s internal borders not to be “changed by force or in contravention of the constitution.”
The administrative boundary, historical geography, social & population history of Wolkait, Tegede, Telemt and Humera provinces of Ethiopia, from ancient times to the 1990s, had never been controversial or a matter of debate. Anyone interested in the administrative boundary, historical geography, social & population history of Wolkait, Tegede, Telemt and Humera provinces of the area can read the well documented The Wolkait Affairs book that includes more than 700 primary and secondary sources, from archives in and outside of Ethiopia.
The Amhara territories of Wolkait, Tegede, Telemt and Humera were forcefully annexed into Tigray by TPLF in 1991 four years before the constitution was adopted, in contravention of TPLF’s own Transitional Charter of 1991/1992 and without any constitutional due process. Sadly, this forceful annexation of Amhara provinces by TPLF and the change of the then internal borders by TPLF seems acceptable to Secretary Blinken.
In other words, Secretary Blinken and the West are demanding the Amhara forces to withdraw from their own land, the Wolkait, Tegede, Telemt and Humera by referring to such territories as Western Tigray although they were forcefully annexed into Tigray in 1991. Recognizing the Wolkait, Tegede, Telemt and Humera as Western Tigray is therefore tantamount to recognizing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s invasion and annexation of Kuwait. That is not fair. Unfortunately for the United States Secretary of States and much of the west, it looks like that the truth does not matter. The US and the global community of nations should have maintained the same policy of non-recognition of Wolkait, Tegede, Telemt and Humera as Western Tigray like the non-recognition of Kuwait as part of Saddam Hussien’s Iraq. And the Amhara forces should not be asked to withdraw from their own land, whether it be Wolkait or the Raya areas.
The bluntness of Secretary Blinken’s statement that lectures Ethiopia that its internal boarders should not be changed in “contravention of the constitution” also exposes his lack of knowledge on Ethiopia and the deeply flawed constitution that he is referring to. Secretary Blinken’s statement also wrongly implied that such territories have been made a part of Tigray by the constitution. However, the fact is that neither the founding personalities of the constitution nor Secretary Blinken can find a single clause in the constitution that defines boundaries between the regions of Ethiopia. The constitution of Ethiopia is mute on the matter.
The crimes TPLF committed in those areas over the last 30 plus years; the mass graves, disappearances, expulsions, mass rape of indigenous people in the TPLF occupied areas, the destruction of the natural environment, and dispossession of the land from the indigenous people to create space for TPLF mechanized agriculture, looting and other crimes are all well documented. Secretary Blinken’s defense of TPLF’s forceful annexation of the former Wollo, and Gondar proper (Semien and Begemder) areas into Tigray is tantamount to providing an excuse and support to TPLF to launch an assault on Amharas and provoking all Amharas to mobilize and repulse the assault. Because of such uninformed statements by the Secretary, the US is sponsoring war between peoples, not between armies. These are the reasons why ordinary Ethiopians are at loss with the actions and statements coming out of Washington since the egregious attempted takeover of the Ethiopian government by TPLF back in November 2020.
Secretary Blinken enjoys a constitution that has lived a test of time and that has been amended 27 times with the consent of the citizens of the United States. The central tenet of the US Constitution is the belief that the individual citizen is endowed with unalienable rights. At the time of the framing of the US Constitution, therefore, the framers did not go about creating an ethnic enclave of states even though pre-revolution America had sizable European ethnic and religious settlements and domination, black Americans, and native Americans across then US territories. In addition, it took 14 years since the Declaration of Independence to the Ratification of the Constitution. The process was long and arduous, but its fruits we are all proven beneficial.
Contrary to the US Constitution, the Ethiopian constitution is a byproduct of TPLF’s manifesto since the group began an armed rebellion. It is a political program turned into a constitution without the participation of neither the citizens of Ethiopia nor their representatives. It was evident that TPLF never intended inter-group discussions and win-win outcome but an imposition of what it gained through its war against the doomed Derg regime. Had there been an honest debate and dialogue, the current quagmire in Ethiopia would have been avoided long before. Although not at all stated in the Ethiopian constitution, the issues of intra-state boundaries would have been resolved had there been an inkling of honesty within TPLF’s then leadership.
Therefore, why is the Secretary of the United States, while enjoying an exemplar constitution stoops down to upholding a pseudo constitution in the form of an ethnic driven political program of TPLF? Why would he lend support to a constitution that replaced the unalienable rights of individuals by a nebulous group right?
Why is the Secretary of the US, evidently lacking the depth of the history of Amhara and Tigray—even as recently as since 1991 advocating the subjugation of an entire areas of Amharas by TPLF without their consent?
Secretary Blinken is a lawyer from Columbia; however, it does not appear to Ethiopians as to how much he has done his homework on the systematic ethnic cleansing efforts undertaken by TPLF in the lands of Wolkait and Tegede beyond the Tekeze River, a natural boundary of Tigray and Amhara.
The current positions of the United States boggle the mind of many Ethiopians and the reckless statements coming out of Secretary Blinken’s State Department and interferes in Ethiopia’s domestic affairs—to a point of telling another sovereign nation on how to apportion its own internal boundaries is beyond comprehension and downright ignorant. Is it willful political stand? Is it a lack of due diligence required of a department led by a Columbia trained lawyer? Or is it an arrogance derived from ignorance that world history shows how powerful nations treat “unequal’s”?
The State Department is indeed unaware of the disdain with which Ethiopians view the current constitution as the source of unspeakable crimes against innocent citizens. The apartheid system it created led by TPLF has continued as the Achilles heel of the Ethiopian state. Ethiopians have been advocating for this constitution’s amendment and even discarding this gravely flawed document but who seems to be standing in its last defense of late? The Secretary of the United States.
It is time for the US to look closely on the depth of the expansionist and fascistic TPLF and the havoc it had created since 1975 and let Ethiopia handle its own internal affairs. The career diplomats, some who served in Ethiopia and the professionals in state department have stated to sources that the US’s current stand on the horn of Africa is a result of political influence by people who in the past have publicly stated their admiration and loyalty to TPLF.
If Secretary Blinken is repeating TPLFs disinformation and miscarriage of truth over and over because he is not reviewing all available information on Ethiopia, maybe it is time to query information presented to him by the administration officials with known ties to TPLF. It is time for him to seek advice from Ethiopian and African experts and cut out those who appear to have vested interest in salvaging a dying ideology and a political group that remains determined to subjugate the Ethiopian people as it has done before.
The last two decades of US foreign policy for the Horn has been entirely dominated by TPLF sympathizers who are working for successive US administration at the White House, State Department, and the United Nations. The TPLF led regime had repeatedly used its involvement in the counter terrorism strategy in the Horn of Africa to cheat and cement its importance to the western powers. TPLF sympathizers who are working as officials of the successive US governments since the 1990s such as Linda Thomas Greenfield, Gayle Smith, Susan Rice, and few others cannot be expected to be impartial in the Ethiopian conflict. Many Ethiopians may not understand that Secretary Blinken’s strength and expertise is primarily in the realm of European history and politics. The TPLF initiated quagmire in the Horn of Africa should not be a crisis he was looking for on his plate.
The Secretary is too engaged in what the Biden administration believes to be a great blunder from the previous administration and in rebuilding trust with European and East Asian partners. Therefore, we suspect that he may have also outsourced the problems of Ethiopia to those who have been the “go to guys” for that corner of the world. It is a mistake to leave the current Ethiopian issues in the hands of individuals who have been well misinformed by TPLF for the last five decades. Any advice that originates from them can only serve the interest of TPLF which is contrary to American values and interests in the region. Ethiopian America relationship is at crossroads. Secretary Blinken’s decisions in the next few weeks will therefore help determine what the Ethiopian people’s view of the US will be for decades to come.