A moment of peace in a world of war. The Nobel Peace Prize correctly heralds the young democratic Ethiopian leader, Abiy Ahmed Ali, for his efforts “to achieve peace and international cooperation, [specifically] to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea.”
But forgive my refrain, the absence of western diplomacy from “Trump” risks obliterating all the good that’s been done.
Start with the understanding that Ethiopia is not yet heaven. A large northern part of the country is in serious tumult, an ethnic uprising that has several times spilled into the streets of far away Addis Ababa.
New refugees from neighboring Somalia are straining the resources of the country, particularly because one the most lasting and historic ethnic enmities in Africa is between Ethiopians and Somalians.
Ethiopia’s Chinese-financed super dam on the Blue Nile is ready to operate, and both The Sudan and Egypt who depend upon the Nile warn that war is imminent should the flow be disturbed, which is likely.
The very young, well educated Ethiopian population in Addis Ababa is growing extremely restless with what they characterize on social media as Abiy’s slow-going efforts towards democracy, which brought him to power. In response Abiy has several times ordered the nationwide shutdown of the internet.
So Ethiopia is not yet heaven. But the Nobel Committee was correct in singling him out this year as a peace maker, and if anyone in the contemporary history of Ethiopia can harness all the good potential of this ancient land, it’s Abiy.
It’s just a monumental task. But it’s a task that Abiy embraced specifically because America helped and urged him to do so. By that I mean the Obama administration.
The Obama administration’s African foreign and military policy never won me completely over. It was layered by reaction, and often the military dominated the diplomacy, governed by the support Obama achieved in Congress by successfully “fighting terrorism.”
But it was working compared to today: The lid was kept on the Yemen conflict, directly across the Red Sea from Ethiopia and Eritrea. Somalia was nearly pacified by the Kenyan Army Obama created. Mostly secret CIA efforts ultimately encouraged the popular uprising against Sudan’s brutal 3-decade long dictator, right next door to Ethiopia. Aid – much of it military – contributed significantly to Kenya’s explosion into modernity.
The one clear failure of the Obama administration was the management of the Arab Spring in Egypt. But I can’t think of another one in this whole area of North, East and the Horn of Africa. Not bad.
And personally I always felt the most historic success was the rising of Abiy Ahmed Ali, a peaceful democrat born of a brutal Stalinist regime. Obama’s much criticized opening remarks in Addis Ababa to the African Union in 2015 applauded Abiy’s ascension and basically began carefully revealing all the things I just listed above. One day we’ll learn that Obama’s finger was in the soup that created Abiy.
Then. Came “Trump.”
Sorry folks, I always must remind you as much as myself that it isn’t the oaf Trump per se, but the movement of American ignorance that snuck that person into power and the shameful obeisance by otherwise reasonable politicians and intellects to that aberrant victory. But it will forever be called “Trump.”
“Trump” reversed the gains in Somalia, and the country is once again at war, its refugees straining Ethiopia. “Trump” propped up strongmen, giving succor to Egypt’s horrible leader, diminishing the tumbling of Sudan’s horrible regime and now threatening Abiy’s tenure.
Africa has struggled for so long towards democracy, and in a few historic seconds “Trump” has clipped it off at its knees.
The Nobel Prize specifically mentioned the opening of relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia, a war which began in ancient times and unbelievably seemed to be ending. But now Eritrea has closed its borders with Ethiopia, again. The symbolic but important daily flights between Addis and Asmara are no longer regular. The agreed port on the Red Sea that the French were orchestrating and funding as the final icing on the cake for the new relationship, has stalled.
All. Because. Of. “Trump.”