US’s “Blanket Condemnations” over Conflict in northern Ethiopia Unacceptable, MoFA says

ADDIS ABABA – The Ethiopian government has rebuffed the latest “blanket condemnations” by the United States regarding the conflict in the north part of the nation as unacceptable and divisive.

The federal government and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) signed a cessation of hostilities agreement last November, ending a two year long conflict in the north.

The US State department in a statement on Monday stated that, since the peace deal signing, human rights abuses in northern Ethiopia “are significantly down, Eritrean forces are leaving, and the Ethiopian government is taking the first step towards transitional justice.”

“However, the suffering that was brought upon civilians in northern Ethiopia must be acknowledged,” US State Secretary Antony Blinken said in the statement.

Blinken said, after a review, he has “determined members of” ENDF, Eritrean Defence Forces, TPLF and Amhara region forces to have committed war crimes during the conflict.

He further accused all parties of the conflict except the TPLF of committing crimes against humanity while singling out members of the Amhara forces for committing “crime against humanity of deportation,” among others.

Blinken went on saying “formally recognizing the atrocities committed by all parties is an essential step to achieving a sustainable peace,” calling for “those most responsible” to be held accountable.

In response today, Ethiopia’s Ministry of foreign affairs (MoFA) rebuffed Blinken’s statement, saying it “is selective” and “unfairly apportions blame among different parties in the conflict”.

The Government of Ethiopia, the Ministry says, “does not accept the blanket condemnations contained in the statement and does not see any value in such a unilateral and adversarial approach.”

“For no apparent reason, the statement appears to exonerate one party from certain allegations of human rights violations such as rape and other forms of sexual violence despite the clear and overwhelming evidence about its culpability,” MoFA added.

Prejudices national efforts

The foreign ministry says the state department’s statement is “inflammatory” as well as “untimely” as “it is coming shortly after the launching of national consultations on options for a transitional justice policy.”

As per the Ministry, one of the pillars of transitional justice policy is accountability, and it foresees that there will be further investigations into allegations of the kinds of crimes the statement alleges.

These investigations, it says, “will consolidate” those undertaken by the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce implementing the recommendations of the EHRC-OHCHR Joint Investigation.

The latest statement from the US, however, “prejudices these national efforts to thoroughly investigate allegations, whoever is the culprit”, The ministry stated.

“Whatever the intentions of the US State Department, this statement will be used to advance highly polarized campaigns pitting one community against others in the country,” it said adding that “this partisan and divisive approach from the US is ill-advised”.

“As Ethiopia is implementing the Peace Agreement, such apportioning of blame is unwarranted and undercuts the support of the US for an inclusive peace process in Ethiopia,” MoFA noted.

It said, the government will continue implementing all measures of accountability, including finalizing the consultation on transitional justice and ensuring justice to all victims.

“Friends of Ethiopia are welcome to constructively support this process,” the Foreign Ministry added.

The statement was issued days after Secretary Blinken’s visit to Addis Ababa, where he held several discussions with senior federal and regional government officials.

The visit was seen as a positive sign for Ethiopia which was hit by US sanctions including a ban on Ethiopian products from the U.S. market under the AGOA act over the conflict that weakened the ties between the once close allies.

Authorities are still hopeful that the two countries are poised to mend their bilateral relations.

“The government of Ethiopia hopes that despite the US’s statement, the frank discussions held and understanding reached during the Secretary of State’s visit to Ethiopia will help restore the strategic relations,” between the two countries, the Ministry said.

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