The United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Ethiopia on March 15th, 2023. This marked his first trip to the East African country. Secretary Blinken met with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and several of Ethiopia’s political leaders. The purpose of the meeting between the two nations was to rebuild a diplomatic relationship that had become fractured due to the conflict between the Ethiopian government and Tigrayan forces.
A Rebuilding of Relations
“I’m here in Ethiopia – and then on to Niger – to reaffirm the pledge that President Biden made at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit late last year. As he put it, the United States is ‘all in on Africa and all in with Africa.’ That means the United States is committed to deep, responsive, and genuine partnerships on the continent, because we believe we can only solve shared challenges – and deliver on the fundamental aspirations of our people – if we work together,” Blinken said while speaking to the press at the Addis Ababa University.
Hoping for Peace
Blinken noted the Pretoria Cessation of Hostilities Agreement which was signed by the two formerly conflicting sides and how it was a step in the right direction. He commended how Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPFL) had kept the peace between them and called for that state of peace to remain that way. Blinken did, however, mention how human rights violations were carried out by both sides, calling for perpetrators to be held accountable for their previous actions. At the time of the conflict, there were accusations of killings that were likened to ethnic cleansing as well as accusations of sexual abuse.
“Recognizing the atrocities committed by all parties is an essential step to achieving a sustainable peace. We urge Ethiopians to follow through on their commitments to each other to implement an inclusive and comprehensive transitional justice process that includes both reconciliation and accountability. Overcoming poisonous grievances and ethnic divisions is the only way to break the cycle of political and ethnic violence in the north, in Oromia, or anywhere else,” Blinken said.
The conflict in Ethiopia meant the U.S. placed sanctions on the East African country excluding it from security and economic assistance. This meant that Ethiopia could not participate under the U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). AGOA is a program that Ethiopia greatly benefited from, especially its textile industry. The country was eager to be allowed to trade and participate under AGOA once the agreement was signed and the conflict ceased.
“So as you know, the United States suspended Ethiopia from the AGOA trade preference program effective January last year, 2022, due to gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. And we did this as required by law. It’s in law and we follow the law. Ethiopia has clear benchmarks for a pathway toward reinstatement. The administration will continue to work closely with the government to achieve that objective, which we share,” Blinken said as he answered a question. “But the bottom line is certainly we share the aspiration of Ethiopia returning to AGOA. And as it continues to implement the cessation of hostilities agreement, it will – it’s clearly moving in the right direction.”
Secretary Blinken also announced $331 million in humanitarian aid to assist Ethiopia. “This funding will provide life-saving support to those displaced and affected by conflict, drought, and food insecurity in Ethiopia,” Blinken said. Ethiopia is looking at mending its relationships with former allies and continuing with trade and economic activity. The country seeks to reframe its debt and possibly be granted a loan by the International Monetary Fund.
“Today I have met with Secretary Anthony J. Blinken, where we held in-depth discussions on various domestic, bilateral & regional issues of mutual interest. We have agreed to strengthen the long-standing bilateral relations b/n our countries with a commitment to partnership,” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed wrote on Twitter after his meeting with Blinken.