Being a veteran and someone with experience conducting peacekeeping missions, I have seen the aftermath of war and the hardships it brings to a region and its people. This conflict will bring death, famine, and regional instability. The U.S. must take the lead in shaping a stable and safe environment in the region, or the Horn of Africa will see regional instability, war, and famine that the world has not seen in decades.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched military operations in the Tigray Region (one of the ten regions in Ethiopia), accusing the leaders in this region of attacking a government defense post and stealing military equipment. Also, days after launching military operations in the Tigray Region, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed imposed a state of emergency while also cutting the Tigray Region's internet and telephone networks.
Scores of casualties are reported. More than 11,000 refugees are crossing the border into Ethiopia's neighboring country Sudan. An unstable Ethiopia does not mean the conflict will be contained only within the Ethiopian borders. It almost certainly will affect surrounding countries like Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, and Djibouti, destabilizing the region.
The U.S. must first condone the military operation in the Tigray Region, promote a peaceful resolution, and provide a combination of security and an aid package to nurture stability in this nation.
I believe the U.S. should consider increasing aid and funding to Ethiopia and not withholding it. In August 2020, the U.S. State Department approved a freeze on foreign aid that could affect up to $130 million in assistance to the country. This tarnished relations with Ethiopia in recent months.
Currently, the U.S. requested $226.8 million in total aid in fiscal year 2020, most of which is going to “health” ($169 million), according to ForeignAssistance.gov. The U.S. should appropriate less to “health” and more to “peace and security” (where $770,000 is currently budgeted) and to “democracy, human rights, and governance” (where $600,000 is budgeted).
What the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden does in the next few months will determine Ethiopia’s and the region’s stability, as well as Africa's future. Ethiopia is a regional power in the Horn of Africa. The U.S. must take the lead in making sure Ethiopia does not become a failed state.
I believe the goal of the U.S. should be promoting peace and stability in Ethiopia. If the U.S. looks the other way, this nation and region will become a haven for violence and extremism. An assistance and aid package should be on the U.S. foreign-policy agenda in assisting the Ethiopian government through its conflict and its rebuilding of hope in the country.
Darryl Scarborough of Chaska, Minn., is a veteran of the armed services with overseas experience in humanitarian aid and assistance missions. He wrote this for the News Tribune.
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