Kentucky’s General Assembly on Tuesday March 29, 2022 passed House Concurrent Resolution 133 concerning Ethiopia’s crisis. The Resolution calls on the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the Oromo Liberation Front, and other belligerents to cease all hostilities protect human rights, to allow unfettered access for humanitarian relief, and to cooperate with independent investigation of credible atrocity allegations pertaining to the conflicts in Ethiopia’s Tigray, Amhara, Afar, Oromia and Benishsangul-Gumuz regions.
Ethiopia for some people is the end of the earth. Psalms 68:31 of the King James Bible says, “Ethiopia shall stretch out her hands unto God “. That biblical understanding is very alive in Ethiopians’ minds as the country now searches to find itself.
In the early November, 2020, the Ethiopian government was in conflict against rebels’ forces from the northern Tigray region. Those rebels were supported by Somali fighters, who in turn were backed by a foreign nation, Qatar.
Ethiopia’s problems developed over time. The Tigray Liberation Front (TPLF) ruled Ethiopia with an iron fist for 28 years, beginning in 1991. It adopted ethnocentric federalism and redesigned the country along ethnic lines as soon as it took political power. Ethiopia has more than eight-five ethnic groups and a total population of 120 million. The TPLF cultivated supremacy of the Tigre people who constituted five percent of the population, dominating the other 95%, subjecting them to ethnic cleansing, including at times murder and displacement from the country’s professional bureaucracy.
Change came to Ethiopia in 2018, promising to bring into being democratic government, but instead the ethnocentric policy written into the TPLF era constitution generated fierce ethnocentric conflict in the country, contesting ethnic groups’ occupation of particular territories. Thus far, that has cost over 500,000 peoples’ lives and left over 1.8 million internally displaced.
Motivated by the desire to help stop Ethiopia’s slide into civil war, the Honorable Derrick Graham persuaded his fellow Members of the Kentucky’s General Assembly to adopt House Concurrent Resolution 108 encouraging President Biden and the United States to re-examine US foreign policy toward Ethiopia, promote respect for human rights, support formation of democratic institutions there, and refrain from endangering what remains of the country’s unity and territorial integrity.
Conventional wisdom teaches that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. While the people of Ethiopia harbor no illusions about “a pound of cure”, they are profoundly grateful to the elected Representatives of the Commonwealth of Kentucky for their statesmanship and vision, and more importantly, for not turning a blind eye to Ethiopia’s plight. Ethiopians are not asking for an American solution to their country’s problems. They simply hope that American policy does not support entrenchment of an ethnocentric, exclusive, single party state in their country.
Gashaw W. Lake
Professor Emeritus and Former Dean, Kentucky State University