Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: US diplomacy in Ethiopia seen as hold-thy-tongue policy

Silence is golden? That may be the case in an untimely turn in American diplomacy aimed at one of Africa’s worst civil wars and a humanitarian crisis that calls out for global assistance. Just three months after being appointed as the United States special envoy to the Horn of Africa, David Satterfield abruptly announced his departure last week. Sometimes the clearest messages are unspoken. Just before his departure, Mr. Satterfield told Reuters that U.S. efforts in Ethiopia are “focused squarely” on getting aid into Ethiopia’s embattled region of Tigray as well as other war-struck areas. “What we do, what we say – all is focused upon achieving and maintaining that goal,” he said. (https://news.yahoo.com/hold-thy-tongue-diplomacy-ethiopia-152306974.html) The civil war that began in late 2020 has stalemated with a government blockade of Tigray that effectively bars humanitarian aid and outside communications. According to various estimates, half a million people have been killed and more than 2.4 million displaced from their homes. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been soundly criticized for the war’s conduct. In a rare rebuke earlier this year, the Nobel Committee, which awarded Mr. Abiy its Peace Prize in 2019 for ending a long military stalemate with neighboring Eritrea, said he bore “special responsibility” to end the conflict. But open criticism has done little to alter the course of the civil war in Ethiopia. Mr. Satterfield’s departure in silence may be a subtle signal of U.S. concern but one that does not openly shame Mr. Abiy. It keeps the focus on action, not assigned guilt.

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