AUSTIN, Texas — Since November 2020, the Ethiopian government has been engaged in a fierce civil war with rebel forces in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray province. As of October 2021, the conflict has displaced 2.1 million people and placed more than 7 million at risk of acute food insecurity. International donors have had difficulties facilitating aid responses within the region as fighting has obstructed humanitarian convoys attempting to enter land-locked Tigray. In response to the ongoing civil war in Ethiopia and its effects on the local population, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyes stated on March 16, 2022, that “there is nowhere on Earth where the health of millions of people is more under threat.”
Ethiopia Stabilization, Peace and Democracy Act
In response to this crisis, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the Ethiopia Stabilization, Peace and Democracy Act (H.R. 6600) on February 9, 2022. This bill supports the United States’ efforts to bring an end to the Tigray War and protect the human rights of those the conflict affects. In the pursuit of these goals, the bill outlines the following directives:
- Diplomacy. The U.S. will seek to advance its diplomatic commitment in the region by engaging with bodies like the United Nations, the African Union and the European Union. By taking a multilateral approach, the U.S. will ensure that its diplomatic efforts are coordinated and effective. The efforts will include community-based initiatives aimed at intrapersonal diplomacy, such as conflict resolution programs and “psychosocial rehabilitation” for those the civil war in Ethiopia affected.
- Humanitarian Pathways. Throughout the conflict, widespread chaos and a lack of overland routes into Tigray have stalled aid delivery. In order to support refugees, internally displaced persons and other vulnerable populations, the U.S. will work to overcome these obstructions and ensure “unfettered humanitarian access” to the region. Once this access is secure, assistance efforts will specifically target medical and health care infrastructure that collapsed during the war.
- Human Rights. The U.S. will pursue accountability for any party that violates human rights or otherwise commits atrocities, crimes against humanity or genocide. Unfortunately, such offenses have plagued the civil war in Ethiopia. According to Human Rights Watch, rebel forces are responsible for forcibly expelling Tigrayan civilians from their homes through the use of extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, arbitrary detention, mass arrests, looting, intimidation and the denial of humanitarian assistance, all of which constitute crimes against humanity.
- Civil Society. The U.S. will pursue community-based efforts to engage marginalized groups, such as women and children, in civil discourse. The U.S. will also work with social media companies to combat the spread of hate speech, which plays a role in perpetuating the ethnic violence of the Tigray conflict. According to Amnesty International, there has been a notable increase in social media posts that use ethnic slurs against Tigrayans or otherwise incite targeted violence against the population.
- Sanctions. The U.S. will enforce most of the directives through sanctions. This bill gives the president the authority to impose sanctions on any party that undermines peaceful negotiations, commits human rights abuses, obstructs humanitarian assistance or distributes weapons to hostile combatants.
Who Supports the Bill
This bill enjoys strong bipartisan support. Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), James Risch (R-IN) and Chris Coons (D-DE) first introduced the bill in the Senate on November 4, 2021. Meanwhile, Reps. Young Kim (R-CA) and Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) introduced the companion bill in the House of Representatives on February 4, 2022. It passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee on February 9 where Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-TX) co-sponsored it.
After successfully passing through the committee, H.R. 6600 and its companion bill S.3199 will soon receive a final vote in their respective chambers.
The US and Ethiopia
This bill is part of a close developmental relationship between the U.S. and Ethiopia that goes back to the early 1900s. Today, the U.S. remains Ethiopia’s largest donor of foreign aid. Since the beginning of Fiscal Year 2021, the U.S. has provided the Ethiopian people with more than $1 billion in humanitarian assistance.
H.R. 6600 seeks to parlay this crisis funding into long-term stability by bringing an end to the civil war in Ethiopia. If it passes, the U.S. will use the diplomatic, economic and legal tools at its disposal to resume humanitarian operations in Tigray and provide crucial assistance to millions of Ethiopians.
– Jack Leist