We, the undersigned, are observers of different backgrounds who have been privileged to lend our voices to those of Ethiopia seeking fair treatment in the global court of public opinion. We believe it is vital to make you aware of the genuine facts and background of the situation in Ethiopia because the conduct of your officials last week not only poses a threat to future relations with the EU but is undermining the very security of a fledgling democracy and the best hope for the developing Horn of Africa.
Please consider that your Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic declared to journalists — as reported by the Associated Press — that “more needed to be done” before the EU would normalize its relations with Ethiopia. “I do not see the rationale for keeping the blockade of banking services, electricity, and telecommunications in place,” Mr. Lenarcic told the media.
With all due respect, if Mr. Lenarcic cannot see it, there are millions of Ethiopians, not to mention the administration of their elected government, who would gladly and politely educate him on the essential facts: that the state is dealing with a terrorist organization that started the conflict by murdering thousands of its military personnel on November 3, 2020, and which went on to lay waste to whole communities — vandalizing and looting hospitals, universities, museums — while using child soldiers and forced recruitment on innocent Tigrayans.
We, the undersigned, do not recall the EU ever showing such generosity in terms of banking services, electricity, and telecoms when a similar stalemate existed during the ISIS occupation of Mosul. It would be difficult to remember even one example, let alone a recent one, in which a terrorist group was treated as a persecuted victim while it rampaged through a nation and committed war atrocities. The same week when Mr. Lenarcic pondered a rationale, he needed only to pick up The Guardian, in which Lucy Kassa — once a stalwart propagandist for the TPLF — had changed her tune somewhat and confirmed that it is doing forced recruitment and stealing aid from the Tigrayans who need it.
As if to add insult to injury for the majority of Ethiopians, Mr. Lenarcic and his colleague, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Roland Kobia, met with Debretsion Gebremichael and Getachew Reda in Mekelle, later referring to Debretsion as “regional president” and Getachew as “Head of International Relations.”
It should not be necessary to lecture seasoned diplomats on the nuances of assigning such counterfeit titles to individuals who are considered enemies of the state.
It also betrays a disturbing, willful ignorance on the part of EU representatives over the true state of affairs in the country, as well as the history of corruption, human rights abuses, and mass murder perpetrated by the TPLF while it was in power for 27 years. Given the recent talks, the EU seems blind, too, to the very strong indications that the governments of Egypt and Sudan are working to destabilize Ethiopia.
Such unelected representatives are acting without accountability to or careful regard for the member states they supposedly serve. Moreover, such conduct reflects a bad faith approach that was exemplified as well last year when the EU demanded Ethiopia “return to constitutional order” — as if the nation’s constitution could provide for the convenience of armed insurrectionists!
The European Union’s positions have helped to drive Ethiopia to reconsider the EU’s strategic adversaries, such as Russia and China. We stress that a sovereign state is entitled to befriend whom it pleases but had the EU and the U.S. not taken such punitive steps in a vindictive campaign to isolate it, Ethiopia would probably not have resorted to seeking closer relations with regimes that have appalling human rights records.
We, the undersigned, are asking you — indeed, imploring you — to stop lecturing and listen. Stop offering comfort and making promises to terrorists and begin working with those elected in Ethiopia in what was the very first election deemed free and fair by international observers.
A new approach is required. Instead of playing judge, adopt the role of a physician. And the primary caveat for that role is: First, do no harm.
We urge the EU to normalize relations with Ethiopia as rapidly as possible so that you may work in a truly collaborative fashion with its government, offering aid where the country as a whole requires it — not for one single region that you deem geopolitically expedient. We urge you to distance yourself from the U.S. position, one that doesn’t reflect the values that the European Union stands for, and to carve out a separate, more enlightened policy course of your own. We urge you to work with Ethiopia and the greater Horn of Africa, not against it.
The sun has long set on an era where Europe’s representatives ought to still think they hold moral superiority over African residents. Their choices, even their mistakes, are their own to make. Just as surely as you would not welcome Africans intruding on security concerns in Belgium or Italy, Ethiopians demand the same level of respect. It is time to make good on the values that diplomacy is supposed to embody, and the first of these is respect.
Dr. Berhanu Tadesse, Chairman, Global Ethiopian Advocacy Nexus
Mesfin Tegenu, Executive Chairman, American Ethiopian Public Affairs Committee
Nebiyu Asfaw, Chairman, Ethiopian American Development Council
Deacon Yoseph Tafari, Chairman, Ethiopian American Civic Council
Simo Parviainen, Master of Laws (LL.M), Former Diplomat, Finland
Jeff Pearce, Journalist and Author
Rasmus Sonderriis, Correspondent, Ethiopia, Chile, Denmark