U.S. Officials in Addis, Outcome Uncertain

President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed
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American officials are now in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, conferring with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and no one knows what the outcome might be. I spoke with Laurence Freeman, a development economist with 30 years of experience on the African continent, and particular interest in Ethiopia.

Ann Garrison: You've been back and forth between the US and Ethiopia many times since the war began in November 2020.

Lawrence Freeman: Yes.

AG: And have you seen a state near collapse?

LF: Ethiopia is not near collapse. And of course, I was there in August, then for two weeks in December, when the US Embassy was saying every day that we must leave the city immediately, and they would help pay our tickets, because Addis was about to be invaded by the TPLF. The country is not in a state of collapse. It is in a state of war with an armed force in its northernmost province, Tigray.

But the fact of the matter is that the country is suffering from financial distress. They spent a lot of money on the war. They're manufacturing income is down. The world financial bodies are cutting off aid and loans to the country. And therefore, what the United States is saying is: 'You're very poor right now, you're going to need the United States and the West to come back together again, and therefore the West can dictate what its terms will be for the future."

AG: There are a handful of states in the developing world, including Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, and Iran, that are standing proud, refusing to buckle under the pressure created by sanctions, IMF and World Bank strangulation, military threat, and the like. Do you think Ethiopia will be able to join them in that?

LF: This is the question right now that is being discussed. As you may know, both the new Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Fee, and the new U.S. Envoy to the Horn of Africa, David Satterfield, are in Addis now. I think that what they're going to do is put a lot of pressure on the government and Prime Minister Abiy, that either he goes along with with their dictates for the country or they're going to squeeze it further with more sanctions, more cut offs for financial aid. Whether the Ethiopian government is able to stand up to that, I don't know. There are signs that they may be caving in, but there's nothing definite on that.

They may decide that they're not going to go along and like other countries, they're going to resist the sanctions. But the use of sanctions against Ethiopia is really disgusting. And the removal of Ethiopia from AGOA, using trade as economic warfare, is very, very serious. The Biden Aministration and Secretary of State Blinken are basically doing their best to weaken the country and force it into submission. And I guess we'll know in the days ahead whether they were successful or not or whether the Abiy government will stand up. If they do, the country will have to suffer more sanctions.

Lawrence Freeman is a development economist with 30 years of experience on the African continent, and paricular interest in Ethiopia. His Twitter handle is @lfreemansafrica and his blog is Africa and the World

Ann Garrison is a Black Agenda Report Contributing Editor based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize  for promoting peace through her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes Region. She can be reached on Twitter @AnnGarrison and at ann(at)anngarrison(dot)com.

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