ESAT News (October 10, 2016)
Former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Herman Cohen, said that he believes the current crises in Ethiopia was a result of domination by Tigrians over the economy and politics of the country as well as putting in place a “fake” federal political arrangement.
“In 1991 a system of states was established based on ethnic groups. But this was a fake system because none of the states that had ethnic groups different from the Tigrians had any voice what their government should be and what they should have. So it is strictly a one party state, which most African governments had abandoned long time ago,” he noted in an exclusive interview with ESAT.
“It looks to me that the government does not understand there are major grievances among large groups of people especially younger people who graduated from the university and unable to find unemployment. Also the fact that members of the TPLF dominate the economy, have monopoly over economic activity. So there is major frustration there.”
He pointed out that TPLF regime failed to deliver economic benefits to the vast majority of the population. “The benefits come mainly to Tigrians,” he asserted.
Cohen said it was unfortunate that the TPLF had used lethal force against unarmed demonstrators.
The Ambassador said the TPLF will have the fate of Mengistu regime if it continues to use lethal force to stay in power. “ If things continue as they are now, it will be very very difficult for the government to remain in power with any sort of legitimacy. So it is time for them to stop using lethal force and to start political discussions. If they continue to use lethal force, they will become just like the Mengistu regime that they fought for so many years.”
Asked why the US government still allied itself with the TPLF regime despite gross human rights violations, the Ambassador said it is a “dilemma” for the US government. “There is a dilemma for the US government because there are geo strategic interests. Al Shabaab in Somalia next door is a great danger to the entire Horn of Africa. It is a danger to the US and all of its interest.”
“Our interest is fighting Al Shabaab, let’s be frank about it. Al Shabaab is very dangerous. It is part of the Islamic State. But also human rights and democracy is important. And I think the weight of the US government in the Horn of Africa is moving more and more to human rights and democracy. And I think the TPLF is feeling that,” the Ambassador said.
Cohen, who was the US Assistant Secretary of State during the Bush administration, from 1989 to 1993, played a key role in negotiating the departure of Mengistu Hailemariam and is said to have given blessing for the TPLF to assume power in 1991.
He is currently President of the Cohen and Woods International, his consulting firm. He is also a registered lobbyist for the Coalition for a Democratic Congo.