Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Imperfections in U.S. Foreign Policy toward Oromia and Ethiopia: Will the Obama Administration Introduce Change?

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Imperfections in U.S. Foreign Policy toward Oromia and Ethiopia: Will the Obama Administration Introduce Change?

Article excerpt

Introduction

Global strategic interests and geopolitics rather than the mutual benefits of the American and African peoples have mainly shaped U.S. foreign policy objectives and priorities on the African continent. As the U.S. emerged as the global hegemonic power by replacing Great Britain after the World War II, it used Africa as "a strategic stepping stone" to the Middle East, and during the Cold War as "a pawn in East-West struggles" (Carter, 2009: 1). Since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, the U.S. has been using Africa for its objective of the so-called war on global terrorism by allying with some dictatorial and terrorist African regimes, such as that of Ethiopia, that engage in state terrorism and gross human rights violations while giving lip service to the issues of democracy, human rights, and economic and social development. Consequently, the U.S. government has been building relations with the parasitic African ruling classes and their repressive and exploitative governments at the cost of the ordinary African peoples.

The tragedy in the U.S. foreign policy toward Africa is that there is no a single standard in dealing with African countries, governments, and peoples. For example when the U.S. criticizes Sudan, Zimbabwe, and other countries for not promoting democracy and protecting human rights, it glosses over the criminal policies of certain governments such as that of Ethiopia that "are falling into line to act as puppets of U.S. imperialism" (Talbot, 2006: 3). Currently, the U.S. government supports the Tigrayan-led minority regime of Ethiopia morally, financially, diplomatically, and militarily by disregarding its authoritarian-terrorist characteristics and its massive human rights violations (Jalata, 2005). How did the U.S. start to support the Tigrayan-led minority government of Ethiopia instead of its Amhara-based client state?

Paul Henze (1985: 74), one of the architects of the American-Tigrayan alliance, argued in the mid-1980s that the Tigrayans "as much as the Amhara, are an imperial people who, despite their loyalty to tradition, think of themselves as having a right--and perhaps even a duty--to play a role in the larger political entity of which they are a part." While promoting the Tigrayan ethnonational interest, the same American ideologue dismissed the political significance of the Oromo people, the largest ethnonational group, by arguing that Oromo grievance "is both territorially and politically diffuse and unlikely to coalesce into a coherent ethnic resistance movement" (Henze, 1985: 65). In a multinational empire like Ethiopia, to identify and support one ethnonation to dominate and exploit other ethnonations claiming that it has the right to rule or it is culturally superior is racist (Jalata, 2001: 89-132). In justifying this racist action, Henze (1985: 74) asserted that the Tigrayans recognize "the need to reconstitute Ethiopia and establish a just government recognizing regional rights and ethnic distinctions" as "a natural outgrowth of...[their] view of Ethiopian history."

Just as the Tigrayans are justified to rule and dominate other peoples by their sense of "fairness," they are also seen as pro-West because "they do not try to claim they are Arabs and they do not seek the support of Arab governments," according to Henze (1985: 74). Implicit in these arguments is that other peoples in the Ethiopian Empire, such as the Oromo, are pro-Arab and anti-West and lack a sense of fairness to deal with other peoples. Henze (1985: 65) dismisses the Oromo struggle for national self-determination as the following: "The claims of the Oromo Liberation Front of widespread organization and effectiveness inside Ethiopia cannot be substantiated by firm evidence. Oromia as a territorial entity has no meaning inside Ethiopia. It is an exile construct." Based on such false assumptions, U.S. foreign policy experts like Henze advised the American government to invest in the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and dismissed the relevance of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and other liberation fronts in the Ethiopian Empire. …

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