In Ethiopia, hostile speeches are on the increase vis-à-vis the West

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Ethiopians living in South Africa protest against alleged foreign interference, during a demonstration in front of the United States Embassy in Pretoria on November 29, 2021.

“The American Embassy, ​​terrorist! “ This rant, posted on November 27 on Facebook, comes from Taye Dendea, Deputy Minister of Peace, the equivalent of the Ministry of the Interior in Ethiopia. In his message, the politician compares the chancellery of the United States to a “Cobra who bites”. He also invites him to “Leave Ethiopia, and gradually the whole of Africa”.

Taye Dendea wrote these words two days after a parade of a thousand demonstrators in front of the American and British embassies in Addis Ababa – buildings already largely emptied of their diplomatic staff due to the deterioration of the military situation – to ask the two countries of « do not touch Ethiopia ».

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In recent weeks, the Ethiopian government has more or less openly criticized Western countries, the United States in the lead, for interfering in its internal affairs. Some, like the Deputy Minister of Peace, go so far as to accuse Washington of collusion with the Front for the Liberation of the People of Tigray (FLPT), the Tigray party at the head of a rebel coalition at war against Prime Minister Abiy. Ahmed for over a year in northern Ethiopia.

This recent hostility of the state apparatus towards the West can be summed up in a hashtag: #NoMore or #Beka in the Amharic language (#Assez). Popularized on social media by Abiy Ahmed’s spokesperson, the slogan has spread like wildfire in Ethiopian society. It is brandished in response to calls for a ceasefire from the international community, after the recent rebel advance less than 200 kilometers from the capital Addis Ababa.

“Ethnic cleansing”

Yet it was the Ethiopian government that urged Jeffrey Feltman, the US envoy for the Horn of Africa, to come to the country at the end of October to start talks with the Tigray rebels.

Aware of the criticisms leveled at Washington, Jeffrey Feltman tried to correct the situation in front of the press on November 23. “There is a narration here that I want to refute here (…), a speech according to which the United States would be nostalgic for a return of the FLPT to the head of government ”, he said with reference to the three decades during which the Tigrayan political elite controlled all the levers of power.

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This era ended with the arrival in power, in 2018, of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, then perceived as a young liberal reformer and who immediately won the favor of the international diplomatic scene.

But the war in Tigray radically changed the situation. In March, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called « ethnic cleansing » the atrocities committed by militiamen from the Amhara community, allies of Abiy Ahmed, in western Tigray.

“The spirit of Adoua”

In May, the announcement of US sanctions against Ethiopian officials for human rights violations in the conflict prompted the former Nobel Peace Prize winner to toughen up his tone vis-à-vis his former partners.

The gap widened further when the United States announced in early November Ethiopia’s temporary suspension of the African Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA), a law that facilitates access to the American market for African countries. sub-Saharan.

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Depicting Ethiopia as the latest victim of the American hawks, some Ethiopian officials now compare the country’s treatment to that of Iraq or Libya. An accusation taken up by Eritrean officials, such as the Minister of Information Yemane Gebremeskel, or Chinese, such as the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wang Wenbin, who in turn use, not without opportunism, the hashtag #NoMore.

This discourse of struggle against the imperialist West receives a very particular echo in Ethiopia, the only African country to have never been colonized. Its modern history is largely based on a founding act: the battle of Adoua, victory of the imperial army against the Italians in 1896. “The spirit of Adoua” is often invoked by the government when calling on citizens to join the front to fight the rebels.

“End neocolonialism”

Pan-Africanism, of which Ethiopia, seat of the African Union institutions, is a melting pot, also serves as a rallying cry. “Our African brothers and sisters are joining the #NoMore movement and I think it isa historical chapter for Pan-Africanism. It’s time to end neocolonialism »Industry Minister Melaku Alebel assured Twitter on November 29, about the #NoMore movement.

In fact, many African partners called on Abiy Ahmed to find a political solution to the conflict. South Africa, Kenya and Djibouti, among others, supported the African Union’s conciliation efforts.

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But in the current climate, as the war draws closer to Addis Ababa, supporters of Abiy Ahmed’s regime are making extensive use of this regional argument, demanding “African solutions to African problems”.

Solomon Kassa, a US-based consultant and influential diaspora member, compares « the plot against Ethiopia » travel restrictions affecting southern Africa because of the Omicron variant or the action of the French army in the Sahel. Wednesday 1is December, the public channel ETV assured that Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali had joined the #NoMore movement.

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This rhetoric of mistrust translates into reality. On November 24, Ethiopia expelled, without explanation, four Irish diplomats. Three weeks earlier, Dublin had signed the UN Security Council declaration calling for a ceasefire and demanded the opening of a political dialogue between the parties as well as humanitarian access to Tigray.