Ethiopia and the United States: History, Diplomacy, and Analysis

By Getachew Metaferia | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6. THE US AND ETHIOPIA UNDER EMPEROR HAILE SELASSIE

The Ethio–US relationship is based not only on the consideration of geopolitics but also on economic and social factors. Ethiopia attracts potential investors because it has one of the largest populations in Africa. From 10 million in 1903, as estimated by the American diplomat Robert P. Skinner, it had risen more than eight fold by 2008. This makes Ethiopia the second most populous state in Africa, after Nigeria, with untapped natural resources and a potential market for American goods (depending on the economic strength and purchasing power of the people.) US foreign policy makers, therefore, must consider Ethiopia’s demography and potential for rewarding investors, given a favorable political environment and a conducive policy.

Besides the potential advantages that Ethiopia offers, it has a unique historical and geographical position in Africa as an independent country (except for the fiveyear Italian occupation) and for its proximity to the Middle East. Ethiopia does not have a European colonial legacy and does not come under any European country’s sphere of influence. This lack of political entanglement helped make Ethiopia attractive to the US during the Cold War. Ethiopia was a safe area for the US and its leader, Emperor Haile Selassie, was a staunch US ally. Ethiopia supported the US cause not only on the diplomatic front at international organizations such as the UN, by voting along US lines, but also by dispatching its military, the Kagnew battalion, to Korea under the UN flag and US command in 1951. The Kagnew battalion that consisted 1,158 troops served with valor in South Korea from 1951–1954. Ethiopia lost 121 troops and 536 were wounded. That military undertaking was meant to check the Communist expansion. In the 1960s, Ethiopia once again put its troops under UN command, this time during Congo’s civil war (1960 to 1965) for a peacekeeping operation. Such tangible undertakings proved to the US that Ethiopia was a dependable ally against Communist expansion, a participant in the peacekeeping mission, and a force for stability in the area.

After Emperor Menelik, the architect of the Ethio–US relationship, Emperor Haile Selassie ruled Ethiopia for almost half a century. He was a strong pro-American

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