U.S. extends sanctions against Ethiopian officials involved in Tigray conflict

President Joe Biden has renewed sanctions imposed on Ethiopian officials involved in the Tigray conflict, pointing out that the situation in the Horn of Africa continues to pose a threat to U.S. national security and foreign policy.

The extension of the sanctions – for an additional one year – comes two weeks after fierce fighting erupted in northern Ethiopia between the government and regional Tigrayan forces, ending a humanitarian ceasefire committed last March by both warring parties.

“The situation in and regarding northern Ethiopia continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” Biden said in a presidential statement issued on Friday.

Moreover, Biden’s statement underscored that the current situation in north Ethiopia is still characterized by “activities that threaten the peace, security and stability” of the country and the Horn of Africa region, highlighting “widespread violence, atrocities, and serious human rights abuses”.

“For this reason, the national emergency declared on September 17, 2021, must continue in effect beyond September 17, 2022,” it added.

In September 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order that allows the US government to impose sanctions against those responsible for committing a range of serious human rights abuses in northern Ethiopia.

The bill was also intended to impose sanctions on certain officials responsible for blocking food aid deliveries, or for taking other actions to fuel the civil war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

The Executive Order among others authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to deny visas, and freeze the assets and interests in property of individuals and entities who “threaten the peace, security, or stability of Ethiopia, or that have the purpose or effect of expanding or extending the crisis in northern Ethiopia or obstructing a ceasefire or a peace process.”

The sanction regime extends to those individuals who are deemed “a political subdivision, agency, or instrumentality of the Government of Ethiopia, the Government of Eritrea or its ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the Amhara Regional Government, or the Amhara regional or irregular forces.”

Although it has been one year since the sanctions were imposed, Washington however, has not yet made the names of sanctioned officials public.

Since the conflict in Ethiopia’s northern region broke out in November 2020, international human rights organizations and aid groups have documented atrocities, widespread sexual violence, forced displacement, and attacks on civilian infrastructure by Ethiopian federal government forces and their allies, including Eritrean government forces.

Tigrayan militia forces are also implicated in killing and raping Eritrean refugees.

Renewed clashes between The TPLF and the government have dashed hopes for peace talks aimed at ending the nearly two-year-long bloody conflict.

Both sides have blamed each other for the resurgence in fighting which shattered the humanitarian truce.

The conflict is feared to spread to other Ethiopian regions and could impact stability and security in the Horn of Africa region as Eritrea reentered the war.

According to sources, fighting with heavy weapons is reported near the Sudanese border.

A few days ago, Sudanese authorities urged humanitarian aid agencies to evacuate the Hamdayet border reception centre for Ethiopian refugees, citing fears for their safety following the intensification of clashes near the Sudanese border.

Source: Sudan Tribune