ADDIS ABABA- If Western powers have legitimate and honest concerns about regional stability besides their economic interests, they should make efforts to bolster ties and engage with the Ethiopian government, renowned Canadian scholars said, adding that the West's snub will lead the Horn of Africa to instability.
International Security Professor and Director of Canada-based Balsillie School of International Affairs, Ann M. Fitz-Gerald (PhD) and a Mathews Distinguished Fellow in Global Public Policy at Canada's Queen's University, Hugh Segal made the above comments in their works titled Ethiopia: A New Proxy Battlespace?
In the commentary the academicians published on Monday in UK's defense and security think tank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), they said that Ethiopia's government rightful law enforcement operation in Tigray State has brought a dangerous information campaign to influence, draw in and even direct international reaction.
They argued that the Western media are the main instrument to negatively cast the law enforcement operation and misinterpreted Ethiopian government's actions through portraying the TPLF as an 'underdog' and being broadly credulous of its messaging. Due to the intensified misinformation campaign, some external actors have rushed to judgement and they are accusing the Ethiopian government of genocide and of enlisting a foreign army to neutralize provincial opposition.
"Some social media actors and keyboard warriors have worked hard to portray the TPLF's action as a defensive, 'pre-emptive attack' to counter the contrived alleged threat of a combined assault by Ethiopia and Eritrea."
The law enforcement campaign in Tigray can be seen as a proxy battleground for external powers and a way to exert influence over Ethiopian policymakers and the Ethiopian government must work hard to resolve the existential threat TPLF posed on the peace of the country. "The Ethiopian government will also need to hold its national elections at the same time dealing sustainably with an authoritarian governance culture and guerrilla gangs across Tigray."
The intellectuals highlighted that Western powers should work with the current Ethiopian government, which has already embarked on domestic social and political reforms and is clearly willing to engage in reasonable negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The West's engagement with the Ethiopia offers the best chance for the Horn of Africa to prosper and failure to do this could see a resurgence of instability, which may not exclude Al-Shabaab-led incursions and the rise of new demagogues across the region.
"The West's natural partner is Ethiopia; failing to embrace this choice and help it with its conflict resolution efforts is equivalent to ignoring the greater strategic benefits that come with partnership, and will surely destabilize the region further."
If the US wants to partner with Addis in the future, it should be helping to de-escalate the conflict - both in the media and on the ground. It should use its considerable influence over all parties and partner with the African Union to help broker a fair and reproducible solution to the water crisis with Egypt and Sudan, they remarked.