Jeffrey Feltman’s high stakes but potential high reward mission

Special Representative to the Horn of Africa is going to UAE, Egypt, and Turkey this week to discuss the Ethiopia Tigray conflict as well as related issues

The complicated issues to be discussed by United States Special Representative Jeffrey Feltman with United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Egypt are as big challenge as one can imagine but the stakes are high for all involved. The discussion will be pointed to finding peace in Northern Ethiopia between Tigray and the Ethiopian government but will also have to include stalemates in water use agreements of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and trying to resurrect the nuclear arms treaty with Iran. While visiting the three named countries discussion involving and perhaps under the radar are also likely to go on with Israel, Eritrea, and  Iran. 

Saudi Arabia and UAE continue to fight a proxy war in Yemen supporting government forces against Iranian backed Houthi insurgents which seems to be stuck in constant famine and civilian death but no resolution. This could be repeated in Ethiopia if no negotiated peace comes.

The United States has maintained targets for negotiation to fruitfully begin including Tigray forces withdrawal to its borders, Eritrea withdrawal from Ethiopia, free flow of food, medicine, and fuel to Tigray and the other regions of Ethiopia. It has asked for a clear and comprehensive investigation of human rights violations including those against women in Tigray and Northern Ethiopia by all parties by an unbiased body.

The United States has considerable power to negotiate as Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Iran would want to escape further sanctions which could be devastating. Egypt and Sudan are at the point of hostility to the point that they are not in a serious discussions with Ethiopia. Offering Iran a chance to re-enter markets may sway its selling of weapons to Ethiopia.  The United Arab Emirates enjoys its sovereignty but its closeness with the United States is more vital then supplying Ethiopia weapons. Being good negotiators they no doubt will want some favorable concessions.

Ethiopia needs to decide if it wants to stay as a favored nation to the United States and Western democracies are move to the China, Russia, Iranian axis. With debts approaching $80 billion and no agreement in sight with China on repayment there is no doubt that many years of austerity lay ahead for Ethiopia even if it wins “victory” soon cutting its future economic development severely. Without negotiation there is a risk of civil instability going on for years with the consequent limited international interest in investing in Ethiopian development.

On the other hand Tigray will have make a promise to stay within its borders in return for guarantees of security from the United States and Western democracies. Tigray needs friends but that comes at the price of forgetting to attempt an overthrow of the Ethiopian federal government. No doubt what to do with Western Tigray will be a major contention.

In the ideal world, the GERD controversy, Sudanese-Ethiopian land dispute, and Tigray war could be tied up with less sanctions for Iran and Eritrea. Not everyone would get all they want but more war could be averted. We can only hope reason will reign over passion for all groups. 


Will USA’s Jeffrey Feltman offer a safe exit for Abiy Ahmed to bring peace?

Will the USA offer a safe exit for Abiy Ahmed as it did for Mengistu Haile Mariam to save needless fighting and death

Will the United States help facilitate the exit of a defeated tyrant, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, from Ethiopia once again as it did in 1991? Jeffrey Feltman is coming to Addis Ababa tomorrow. Clearly the Tigray Defense Force and Oromo Liberation Army will not settle for peace talks when they are so close to almost certain victory. This may prevent prolonged bloodshed and misery that is otherwise destined to occur. It is interesting that Abiy Ahmed was considering allowing the still exiled Mengistu Haile Mariam to return to Ethiopia.

On May 21, 1991 President Mengistu Haile Mariam fled the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, after 12 years of war fighting the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front. At the time Alex du Waal said the only language Mengistu knew was brute force. He sapped the Ethiopian economy trying to overcome the rebel resistance. Upwards of 500,000 were killed and millions displaced in the bloody war which draws consequential similarity to the crisis under Abiy Ahmed.

OLA forces reach Addis outskirts increased trade sanctions against Ethiopia coming

Abiy Ahmed meets with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey

At this moment multiple sources report Oromo Liberation Army elements are fighting in the neighborhood near Entoto Mountain on the edge of Addis Ababa just a short distance from the airport. At the same time Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed made a hasty visit to see the President Erdoğan of Turkey.  The Tigray Defense Force continues to advance toward both Bahir Dar and Gondar while also pushing into Western Tigray. The supply of weapons and trained combat soldiers seems to have run out for the Amhara militias trying a last stand near Bahir Dar and Gondar.

Meanwhile Germany and the United States are setting up to increase sanctions on the Ethiopian government.  Many are asking will the Prime Minister be able to come back if a take over of Addis is imminent?

Although there are all out call outs for volunteers many of the new fighters have no training and only sticks for weapons

Assuming for the moment his Prosperity Party will stay in power at least for a while recent diplomatic actions or lack there of predict poor relations with the United States. The snubbing of USAID Head Samantha Powers last week and now Jeffrey  Feltman, the Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, by Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, raises the high likelihood that Ethiopia will be declared in violation of the AGOA which allows Ethiopian exports to the USA in hundreds of millions of dollars. Should the Ethiopian government survive which many seem to doubt at this point Ethiopia .


Graph of the trade balance between Ethiopia and the United States in millions of dollars

The United States State Department requests for peace talks with the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front by the Ethiopian government have been soundly rejected as well as requests for military forces invading Tigray to withdrawal, restoration of power, internet, access of aid and investigatory bodies to be allowed to enter Tigray. Growing impatience with the American State Department as well as members of Congress who have passed several resolution condemning the treatment of Tigrayans and the atrocities attributed to the Ethiopia and Eritrean fighting forces have resulted in no response.

U.S. total imports of agricultural products from Ethiopia totaled $151 million in 2019. Leading categories include: unroasted coffee ($130 million), nursery products ($6 million), spices ($3 million), planting seeds ($357 thousand), and wine and beer ($271 thousand)

Only 9% of total imports to Ethiopia come the United States. Ethiopia main imports are: foodstuffs, textile, machinery and fuel. Ethiopia main trading partners are: China (18 percent of total imports), Saudi Arabia (13 percent),  Russia and India (9 percent)

The African Growth and Opportunity Act of 2001 gave Ethiopia a chance to export 1800 different products to the United States duty free. However to participate in AGOA To meet AGOA’s there are strict eligibility requirements including ” countries must establish or make continual progress toward establishing a market-based economy, the rule of law, political pluralism, and the right to due process.  Additionally, countries must eliminate barriers to U.S. trade and investment, enact policies to reduce poverty, combat corruption and protect human rights.”