China opposes Biden’s executive order authorizing sanctions on Ethiopia

China is not happy with an executive order President Joseph R. Biden Jr. signed on September 17 authorizing sanctions against those undermining peace and hindering humanitarian access into northern Ethiopia.

The Chinese government says Ethiopia has the ability to resolve its own issues without any foreign interference.

“We oppose the wanton exertion of pressure through sanctions or the threat of imposing sanctions to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a press briefing on Wednesday. “The U.S. should prudently handle relevant issues and play a constructive role in restoring peace and stability in the country.”

Zhao said Ethiopia should realize “national reconciliation and restore peace and stability at an earlier date.”

With its growing economy, China has emerged as the United States’ biggest adversary, and as Ethiopia’s biggest bilateral lender, with $6.5 billion in loans, or 23 percent of the country’s public debt burden of $27.8 billion, according to World bank data, China is co-chairing a creditor committee that seeks to recognize Ethiopia’s external debt, noted Bloomberg.

However, China has remained virtually absent when it comes to human and people’s rights in Africa, only focusing on making money through infrastructure building via contracts that have been deemed to be non transparent.

The U.S. Treasury Department asserted that President Biden’s Executive Order (E.O.) signed on September 17, 2021, “Imposing Sanctions on Certain Persons with Respect to the Humanitarian and Human Rights Crisis in Ethiopia,” was in response to the growing conflict and humanitarian and human rights crisis in northern Ethiopia, which has threatened the peace, security, and stability of Ethiopia and the greater Horn of Africa region.

The conflict, which erupted in November of last year when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali order the military to respond to an attack by Tigrayan state forces on a federal military base, has now last for nearly 10 months.

The conflict started ahead of a general election in Ethiopia, which Abiy’s political party won in a landslide. The Ethiopian Prime Minister is expected to form a new government by October.

The Executive Order declares a national emergency with respect to the crisis and provides the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, with authorities to impose a range of targeted sanctions on persons determined, among other things, to be responsible for or complicit in actions or policies that expand or extend the ongoing crisis or obstruct a ceasefire or peace process in northern Ethiopia or commit serious human rights abuse. 

“Together, with allies, partners, and international organizations, the United States calls on all parties to enter into negotiations to end the conflict. This conflict has created a widespread humanitarian crisis and threatens the stability of Ethiopia,” said Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo.  “The Treasury Department is prepared to employ the range of targeted actions to hold accountable anyone contributing to the deepening of this crisis. The negotiated end of the conflict will set the stage for the United States and international partners to reengage in our efforts to support Ethiopia’s reforms to boost economic growth and job creation.” 

The Executive Order authorizes targeting of actors contributing to the crisis in northern Ethiopia and is not directed at the people of Ethiopia, Eritrea, or the greater Horn of Africa region. 

The Treasury Department said it remains committed to ensuring that U.S. sanctions do not limit the ability of civilians located in Ethiopia and the region to receive humanitarian support from the international community. 

“As part of this commitment, concurrent with the issuance of the new E.O., Treasury issued three general licenses (GLs), which authorize official activities of certain international organizations and other international entities, certain transactions in support of nongovernmental organizations’ (NGOs) activities, and certain transactions related to the exportation or reexportation of agricultural commodities, food, medicine, and medical items. 

“Treasury is committed to facilitating the flow of humanitarian assistance to the people of Ethiopia.  Treasury will continue to work with financial institutions, international organizations, and the NGO community to ease the flow of necessary resources to the people in need across Ethiopia and throughout the greater Horn of Africa region,” said Deputy Secretary Adeyemo.

The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) also issued six Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) which provide additional clarity and guidance regarding the non-application of OFAC’s 50 Percent Rule to the property and interests in property of persons blocked pursuant to the new Executive Order, as well as additional information on the activities authorized by Ethiopia general licenses.

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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