On February 4, 2022, a bill was drafted by Rep. Malinowski (D-NJ 7th District), H.R. 6600, that aims to impose sanctions and challenge the Ethiopian government’s efforts to safeguard peace in the northern region of Ethiopia. As of date, the sovereign government of Ethiopia has declared a ceasefire, released political prisoners, and is undertaking multiple initiatives to conduct an all-encompassing national dialogue, leaving no stones unturned.
However, the bill threatens to impose sanctions on Ethiopia as follows:
1) Security: suspension of security assistance which weakens Ethiopia and further establishes instability in the Horn of Africa.
2) Finance: revoking economical developmental opportunities through loans, financial gains, and technical assistance. Bill H.R. 6600 further insists on organizing other allies and nations for this financial blockade, which will limit or restrict aid in Ethiopia.
3) Investment: prohibiting Ethiopia from the United States International Development Finance Corporations hereby preventing the United States investments and currency exchanges in Ethiopia.
4. Basic right: the bill intends to deny basic Ethiopian American mobility to invest and penalize the Ethiopian diaspora and allies of Ethiopia for supporting the people of Ethiopia, whether it is supporting financially or subject matter experts keen to share knowledge and expertise.
5. Immigration restrictions: the bill enforces migration restrictions on Ethiopians, which includes rescinding existing visa applicants and future diversity visa applications, which threatens the bedrock of the United States desire to allow Ethiopians to build a future in the U.S. In addition, further sanctions and withholding of assets to any foreign person or entity accused of supporting the conflict.
Bill H.R. 6600 was drafted without the consideration of the current progress in Ethiopia and the consultation of the Ethiopian government or the voice of the many Ethiopian Americans in the United States. This extreme-handed and one-sided bill would further punish the democratically elected Ethiopian government through ever more punitive sanctions and alienate Ethiopia.
While Ethiopians have been the victim of brutality for 30 years by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the ruling government from 1991 to 2018, however bill HR.6600 places much of the blame on the Ethiopian government instead of the insurrectionist group [2004 Publication of TPFL] who launched the conflict in November 2020. There is no clear determination that positions the TPLF accountable for previous or current hostilities and human rights violations that continues to escalate the humanitarian crisis in Northern Ethiopia.
Bill H.R. 6600 and the narratives associated are perilous and can bolster the TPLF to continue its hostility and invasion outside of the Tigray region into the neighboring states of Afar and Amhara. This policy and congressional action is NOT a bipartisan approach, rather, intensifies the instability by the TPLF. This partial approach is undermining the Horn of Africa and broader regions by risking the lives of thousands and contributing to the already existing humanitarian challenges.
In contrary, the H.R. 6600 compromises the efforts of the Ethiopian government and the multiple peace negotiations, notably, the African Union’s significant progress to secure a ceasefire in the Ethiopian conflict by Mr. Oligo Obasanjo. Meanwhile, the TPLF ousted these concessions and began attacks outside of Tigray, where within 30 days (Dec 23, 2021 – Jan 23-2022), TPLF/TDF forces had launched multiple attacks (22 attacks) in Afar and Amhara—the majority of these attacks target the town of Abala, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Database (ACLED).
These attacks have exacerbated the humanitarian crisis displacing more than 300,000 civilians in Afar. The town of Abala routes humanitarian aid and supply into Tigray and other conflict regions. The implicit strategy of the TPLF is to create a humanitarian crisis [TPLF blockade] and weaponize hunger to create instability and garner the world’s attention that destabilizes Ethiopia, an identical play-by-play of 1991.
Thus, the United State should not contribute to this conflict by waging one sided bill to sanction Ethiopia. Such action further deteriorates the partnership with Ethiopia and has the potential to result in the loss of a strategic ally in the horn of Africa jeopardizing United State interests.