Changing disastrous US foreign policy in Horn of Africa

Changing disastrous US foreign policy in Horn of Africa

WEEKEND READING – By Abba Mela – “Lemme go. I am an American” used to mean a lot for any American who announces his US citizenship in order to get out of a “tight spot” in any African country just a couple of decades ago. Even us, as Naturalized Ethiopian-American citizens were able to call upon our US citizenship when it warranted.

Nowadays, one would be wary of mentioning US Citizenship in view of the perception of a neocolonialist
America among Black Africans. Clearly, the military might of the US has not and will not help USA regain its “mojo” unless US Foreign Policy is aligned with the reality of a very informed and connected world.

As any IT professional will tell you, there is no “cookie-cut” foreign policy that fits the entire continent as prescribed by the current US Foreign Policy for Africa. Our hero Haile GebreSelassie put it succinctly when asked by a BBC reporter if he is going to the war front, Haile answered with an emphatic “Yes” and went on to say “… you don’t know us … we are different”. US Foreign Policy should not simply define long-term plans and doggedly follow the charted path no matter what. It must be able to quickly adopt to a rapidly changing and evolving world.

The failure of the archaic US Foreign Policy is best underscored by the debacle that the US finds itself in the current war between a duly elected Ethiopian Government and a widely reviled rebel group (TPLF), which the US supports at all levels including on the diplomatic front.

If US goals was to stem off China’s growing influence in Africa, then the policy is an utter failure as it has achieved exactly the opposite, especially in the Horn of Africa.

To reiterate, US actions has further cemented China’s and Russia’s presence in the region and, by extension the rest of Black Africa. On the other hand, if it was about getting rid of Abiy, that’s another level of failure since history should have told US policy makers that Ethiopians and Ethiopian-born citizens will galvanize behind their leader when foreign aggression rises up against our beloved country – be it diplomatic or otherwise. It has always been the case since time immemorial.

Even those who oppose Abiy, are firmly behind him in the fight against neocolonialism. The exponential growth in the number of active participants who support the “#NoMore” movement is a testament to this fact.

What Had Worked Decades Before for US Foreign Policy?

Three or four decades ago, millions flocked to the US in search of the “American Dream”. This meant a lot of different things to a lot of different people who came from every corner of the world. But there were a few underlying factors that were common denominators to the reasons as to why people come to America in the first place. These include: –

▪ The US Constitution – individual rights, freedom of speech and the overall opportunities realized
through these laws was the first and foremost reason that brought millions to the shores of America.

▪ Hollywood – films played a huge part in promoting what was real and good about America while at
the same time whitewashing its dark side. America never lost a war in the movies of the time. We
hooted for John Wayne before understanding what “Manifest Destiny” meant to Native Americans
despite the economic boom it created, which still sustains US as the largest economy to this day.

▪ “Entrepreneurial Spirit” – the “go-getter” attitude of individual Americans “in the pursuit of
happiness” is another core attraction for many immigrants. Most view this trait as the path to realizing the “American Dream”.

At the same time, unabated capitalism does not bode well for many societies and the disparity in income and earning power in America has also worsened socio-economic inequalities even in the US. A vast majority of the world prescribe to what could be described as “sustainable capitalism” whereby communities and the environment are taken into consideration while “pursuing happiness”.

The Current Realities of Our World & the US’s Flawed Foreign Policy

As a brief introduction, we are currently facing polarized positions regarding “Critical Race Theory” in America. Unlike politicians who are fooling themselves and their constituents surrounding the “critical race theory” debate, the world is “woke” and is not saddled with efforts to change or blunt historical facts.

In contrast, the world is busy learning from each other. To better illustrate, most professional American athletes have moved on from the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

On the other hand, Premier League players in the UK still do the BLM kneel down – and with the crowds clapping – before the start of every game since the George Floyd murder in front of the world. This is what the current US Foreign Policy faces from the onset in today’s world especially, when it comes to Black Africa.

Lawrence Freeman, renown Political-Economic Analyst for Africa and other experts like him assess the
current US Foreign Policy in the Horn of Africa, if not as a complete blunder in the least highly bewildering, given the speed with which the US Government severed a 100+ year relationship with the ALWAYS Sovereign State of Ethiopia.

It’s continued support of TPLF is causing irreparable damage to the relationship between the two countries – a reality that begs a paradigm shift in US Foreign Policy so as to stop this disastrous foreign policy in its tracks.

The call for a paradigm shift in US Foreign Policy is not necessitated ONLY by the events happening in East Africa but also in Central America where a similar blunder is waiting to happen. As concerned Ethiopian-Americans, we believe the US should immediately embark upon efforts to be at the forefront of the inevitable Rebuild Effort, which awaits in Ethiopia as soon as the war with TPLF is over.

People of the Horn are warm people but also have “elephant memories” when it comes to remembering
those who remained friends and those who abandoned them in their time of need. The US State Department would be wise to heed to some of the suggestions relayed in this editorial article if it is to regain the trust let alone the “hearts and minds” of Ethiopians, especially the people of Amhara and Afar who hold the US accountable for the destruction, rape and pillage carried out by the bandit TPLF.

We believe the US must be prepared to invest in the aforementioned Rebuild Effort, preferably through
private sector participation from both the US and Ethiopia. Failure to do so has ramifications that go far beyond the Horn of Africa.

As a case in point, the consequences of this loss of trust gifted the Republican Party the Governorship of Virginia. Close to 80,000 Ethiopian-Americans voted Republican although more of them had voted for Biden in 2020. This trend will continue to manifest itself in all Swing States in America like Georgia, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado.

On the “Foreign Front”, the weakness and outdated US Foreign Policy and its glaring limitations
surrounding the current armed conflict in Ethiopia are highlighted by the following policy mishaps, which we believe stem from incompetence or outright Ivy League arrogance.

▪ “Everyone under the sun” knows that US support for TPLF is a consequence of its warped strategy of
trying to balkanize Ethiopia and by extension, Africa. It seems like the US is the only one that thinks
that the world does not know what it is trying to do behind “humanitarian assistance” as a pretext for
changing a duly-elected Ethiopian Government even by force, if necessary.

▪ Western media is now known as a “fake news” machinery that is in place to bolster US foreign policy
instead of acting out its role as the “4th State”. Many of us now agree with former President Trump and believe he was right in calling them so, given what we had experienced firsthand.

To better illustrate, ALL western media outlets conveniently ignored the fact that Tigrayan rebels started the war by killing thousands of Ethiopian troops stationed in Tigray while they slept nor the 1,500 innocent Amhara and non-Tigrayan migrant workers who were systematically slaughtered by Tigrayan militia and special forces based on their ethnicity when defeat seemed eminent around the town of

At the same time, these shameless propaganda machines were touting genocide or busy giving coverage to a group of people as “Transitional Government” – mind you, people who even their neighbors in local diaspora communities in the US do not know let alone their “ghost constituents” back in Ethiopia.

To be frank, the media charade around the event was worse than the Rudy Giuliani “Four Seasons Total Landscaping” episode back in 2020. Even worse, it showed the planning (or lack thereof) that went into this ridiculous sight. It is scary to think this level of incompetence permeates at the highest levels of US Government.

▪ The United Nations and coterie of international organizations have lost their credibility in Black Africa in view of the hundreds of UN and WHO trucks which were left in Tigray so rebels can transport
soldiers and armaments.

Ridiculously, the UN representative to Ethiopia gave a press conference last week stating that the UN was unable to distribute food to Amhara and Afar people who were displaced by TPLF while it is now an open secret that they had no problem sending hundreds of food trucks to their darling TPLF just a couple of weeks ago. To most Black Africans, the UN now stands for “UN” African.

Not a single one of these supposedly “caring” international institutions raised a whisper about the 40 hospitals, thousands of health stations and schools as well as other infrastructure, which the TPLF destroyed as part of its genocidal acts against the poor people of Amhara and Afar.

To all of us Black Africans, the above factors simply add up to neocolonialism efforts by Western Powers.

The Inevitable Rebuild Effort

Before prescribing solutions to the disastrous US Foreign Policy for Africa, we all need to come to terms with existing realities on the ground instead of simply listening to a small clique of Ivy League advisors to Biden and the State Department who are far removed from everyday Joe in America, let alone Black Africa.

Accordingly, the US must live with the reality that China will be a permanent fixture in Africa’s
development efforts. The reality of trade between Africa and the US is primarily limited to petroleum,
mined raw materials and arms (to kill each other?).

On the other hand, China is building airports, bridges, dams, roads and other direly needed infrastructure enjoyed and appreciated by Africans who love them for it. The zero-sum game that the US is dangerously playing in the Horn of Africa will ultimately weaken its presence in that part of Africa.

It also hampers us Ethiopian-Americans from leveraging our professional and educational capabilities and the keen interest to help our people as well as help the US gain an appreciable foothold in Ethiopia.

Secondly, most of the world view American capitalism as unabated and greedy. A huge majority cannot
understand that there are more homeless people in the US as the #1 country in terms of its economy
versus China which is ranked #2.

Nor can one understand that the richest country on earth does not offer free education nor healthcare, i.e., services that are provided even by the poorest of nations. The movie “A Beautiful Mind” succinctly captures what most of the world wants from economic development.

In one scene, future Nobel Prize Winner in Mathematics John Nash was having a good time in a pizza parlor (if I am not wrong) with three of his friends when five girls, four homely looking and one beautiful girl walked in.

He figured out that the only way to maximize benefits (in this case the total number of dates with the girls) could only occur, if the four of them walked across to the four girls and asked them out, who in turn will probably say “Yes” since they were asked first before the beauty was even approached, thus
maximizing benefits for eight people.

Beauty has to find her date. Adam Smith would postulate that pursuit of happiness would mean that all four guys will go after the beauty who would probably say “No” since she is with her friends. For a mostly communal world, benefit to the community far surpasses individual aggrandizement.

In short, Africa wants to PARTNER with China, USA or any other trading entity from anywhere in the world and will maintain its independence in this regard. Fela Kuti (may he RIP), one of the greatest musicians to ever come out of Africa sang “… West Block East; East Blocks West …”, which we translate as “Africa does not want to embargo any country nor will it allow any other country to embargo it” from its unstoppable path to prosperity for all Africans.

Given the above background, we believe the US can benefit greatly if it seriously considers the following suggestions as starting points for mending its relationship with Ethiopia and Black Africa as a whole.

The first step is to meaningfully answer the questions raised by the #NoMore movement, which has taken off as a Pan-African movement and is already embraced by China. South Africa has also offered to host the movement because of its commitment to fight neocolonialism.

For starters, the US can: –

▪ Focus on “low hanging fruits” that could realize immediate benefits to communities such as innovative
use of US technology and expertise to quickly address the education and healthcare needs of
populations in devastated communities of Amhara, Afar and Tigray.

New technology, such as Zoom can be leveraged as stop-gap measures for addressing educational and healthcare needs of communities while the physical infrastructure is being rebuilt.

Even better, these types of technological capabilities can be leveraged as platforms for connecting US and Ethiopian Schools so as to facilitate horizontal learning (between students) as well as strengthen conventional teachinglearning collaboration between US and Ethiopian teachers.

▪ Leverage US know-how, technology and technical capabilities as well as financial resources and
instruments as tools for rebuilding the manufacturing sector in Amhara, which was targeted, looted
and vandalized by TPLF forces. Here again, the US can work with Ethiopian-American experts who
have developed viable strategies for addressing this dire need.

▪ Invest heavily in urban development efforts, which target cities that have been devastated by the war. There is a silver lining to the devastation since it creates the opportunity to rebuild using new
technologies and inputs. Initial focus will be on hospitals, schools and other critical infrastructure.

▪ Trust the everyday Joe in America and “arm them” with the necessary financial and other needed
resources (instead of weapons) in order to launch businesses in Africa through collaboration with their
African counterparts.

We do not want aid to be used as a weapon wielded by USAID and similar entities with hidden agendas. Superpowers could continue and play their “spy games” but the US needs to look to new “outside the box” strategies instead of funding Aid Agencies who are viewed (and correctly for the most part) as the extended arm of intelligence agencies from western countries.

Finally, the way-forward is clear. The US must abort its currently disastrous US Foreign Policy and chart a new path if it so to rebuild a lasting relationship with Black Africa. Failure to do so will undoubtedly push the US to oblivion in Horn of Africa.

EDITOR’S NOTE- The writer whose penname is Abba Mela is an Ethiopian living in the United States and can be contacted via email